CAPE TOWN – Dane van Niekerk's return to the Proteas Women's team may have been a damp squib due the first T20I against the West Indies in Antigua being called off due to rain, but the captain certainly felt good to be back in the green and gold again.
Van Niekerk had not played for the national team since the T20 World Cup semi-final defeat to Australia almost 18 months ago due to a long-term back injury. But that doesn't mean she has not worn her jersey in the intervening period.
"I loved being out there again. I felt absolutely blessed to put on the greens again. I actually laughed when I put it on because I just thought the last time when I wore it, it wasn't actually at the World Cup, but rather in my bedroom when I was crying when the team was away. I had put it on just to feel it again. Obviously exciting to just be part of the team again. They have grown so much as players and people," Van Niekerk said.
The Proteas batters, including Van Niekerk, had an opportunity at the crease before the tropical downpour at the start of the Windies' chase. The visitors, who won the toss and elected to bat, posted a competitive total of 135/3 in their allotted 20 overs. Marizanne Kapp top-scored with a steady 36 at the top of the order before an entertaining 21-ball 35 (2x4,2x6) from Laura Wolvaardt ensured the innings finished with a flourish. Wolvaardt and Tazmin Britz (14 off 11 balls) added 48 runs in the final five overs.
Van Niekerk contributed 15 off 15 balls after opening the batting with Lizelle Lee (30), but struggled to build any momentum. The skipper believes now that they have had an opportunity to sample the unique Caribbean conditions, the Proteas will be better prepared to launch an all-out attack in the second T20I on Thursday (8pm SA start).
"I think I started off a bit slow, but it's the first game and we tried to see what the conditions were like so that we can plan ahead. It obviously didn't come on to the bat as we would have wanted it to. It was slower than expected.
"But it was good hit out for all the batters. I think Laura was exceptional again and Tazmin that came in with her. I really enjoyed watching them. Obviously Lizelle and Kappy kept the ship steady at the top there. Lots of positives even though it wasnt a full game. We can make plans now because we know what's to expect.
"I think we just need to attack. T20 cricket is all about having aggressive mindsets. From what we saw hopefully we can be more attacking. We want to win 2-0 from here. That's obviously the goal."
The Proteas were without fast bowler Shabnim Ismail and top-order batter Laura Goodall for the first match as the duo were nursing a couple of niggling injuries. They are expected to be fit and available for selection on Thursday.