If South Africa needed any further wake-up call that the ICC Women’s World Cup has fast reached the business end, then a quick glance at the log will be a timely reminder.
All eight teams have just two matches remaining to qualify for the four semi-final spots with just one point separating the top five sides. Unfortunately for the Proteas, they are the team in fifth position, due to an inferior run-rate (+1.457) in comparison to fourth-placed New Zealand, who also have seven points but a run-rate of +2.301.
It seems likely that a calculator may have to be hauled out to separate the teams once all the matches are completed on Saturday when all eight teams will be action.
But for South Africa still to be in contention come the weekend, they will first need to overcome a stiff Sri Lankan challenge on Wednesday. The subcontinent side has not enjoyed success yet at this World Cup and will be desperate to break their losing sequence with a victory over the Proteas.Equally, although the team hasn’t fired as collective, Sri Lanka still boast individual stars such as Chamari Athapaththu, who cracked the tournament’s highest score of 178 not out against Australia.
“In a World Cup event we would never take any opposition lightly,” former captain Mignon du Preez cautioned. “We’ve been beaten by them before in an ICC tournament. We know we’ll have to bring our A-game when we play them.
“You can’t think that just because a team hasn’t won a match yet that you will get an easy win. This is a must-win game for us to make sure that we stay alive in the competition and reach the semis, which is our first goal.
“We’ll have a look at the opposition of course, but we’ll spend most of our time on our game plans and making sure that we execute them to the best of our ability come match day.”
South Africa have certainly showed at this World Cup that they have the skills and talent to compete – and beat – the very best. The pace bowlers have been impressive, while captain and leg-spinner Dane van Niekerk is the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with nine scalps.The batting unit have also improved immeasurably with blockbusting opener Lizelle Lee among the leading run-scorers at the global jamboree.
With all the bases seemingly covered, South Africa’s push for the semi-finals will likely be determined by how the team copes with the inevitable pressure associated with high-pressure matches.
It was therefore good to hear the team took a timely break from proceedings on Monday after a lengthy bus ride from Leicester to Somerset.
“We had a long travel day,” Du Preez said. “It was good afterwards for the girls to all get together. We bought some snacks and had a bit of a movie night, watching some comedies at the hotel. It was good to get away from the game for a bit and not talk about the tournament or how the other teams are doing.”