“We owe them one after the World Cup,” Dane van Niekerk said, only half in jest about her side’s three match series against the world champions England, that starts at New Road in Worcester on Saturday. Revenge is but one part of the series for the Proteas.
There are more important matters that will serve as motivation also; the series forms part of the Women’s Championship and thus points are on offer which could ensure direct qualification for the 2021 World Cup and thus avoid the tricky trip via a qualification tournament. In addition the series is also a neat opportunity to assess the progress made in the aftermath of that epoch-making run to the semi-final of the 2017 tournament.
The pain of that defeat still lingers for Van Niekerk and her teammates, but they’ve also been bold enough to acknowledge their own shortcomings and have talked about adopting a more aggressive approach with the bat as a means of showing their continuing development. Central to that new philosophy is wunderkind Laura Wolvaardt, the emerging star of last year’s World Cup and recently named SA Women’s ODI Player of the Year. The 19 year old is a technically elegant player but is well aware of the need to fall in line with the team’s new approach to batting.
“My strike rate in ODIs is a little lower than what I’d like it,” said Wolvaardt. “It’s not necessarily about changing my game, I’m still the same player, I just need to see a few more options, see if I can work on my angles for certain balls.”
Wolvaardt is looking to break into the T20 side for the World Cup later this year, and the need to be more attacking in the shortest format is something she hopes will rub off on her approach in the 50-over game. It’s not only Wolvaardt; the rest of the South African batting has to combine that greater aggression, with consistency a long term problem which the team has struggled to solve.
Against England’s strong bowling line-up led by Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, they will face a thorough examination. Brunt’s recall along with that of ace wicket-keeper batter Sarah Taylor reflects the seriousness with which England is taking the series.
Both South Africa and England lost series’s earlier this year to India, and the race for those three automatic qualifying spots for the 2021 World Cup is likely to be fierce. “Against the world champions your margin for error is a lot smaller so hopefully we cash in in those key moments and can win those games,” said Van Niekerk. “There are those half chances that come along in every game, just small things we can change to get the results in our favour.”
South Africa: Dané van Niekerk (capt), Lizelle Lee, Chloe Tryon, Mignon du Preez, Marizanne Kapp, Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Raisibe Ntozakhe, Suné Luus, Laura Wolvaardt, Andrie Steyn, Zintle Mali, Stacey Lackay, Tazmin Brits
England: Heather Knight (capt), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Danielle Hazell, Amy Jones, Laura Marsh, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Lauren Winfield, Danni Wyatt.
June 9 - 1st ODI, Worcester
June 12 - 2nd ODI, Brighton
June 15 - 3rd ODI, Canterbury