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Laura Wolvaardt stars with the bat as Proteas beat West Indies to square ODI series

South Africa’s Laura Wolvaardt in action

FILE - South Africa’s Laura Wolvaardt in action. Photo: John Sibley/Reuters

Published Feb 3, 2022

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Johannesburg — If you were looking for one of those oil-painting type innings from Laura Wolvaardt — the ones with the exquisite cover drives; up, over or through the inner-ring — then Thursday’s knock was not for you.

Wolvaardt is one of the stars of the international game, her shotmaking is normally of a style that makes traditionalists swoon. Not on this occasion. This was an innings of hard graft, fierce concentration and determination. It was physically demanding with Wolvaardt often dropping to her haunches and on various occasions she required her squad mates to sprint onto the field delivering cold refreshments. It was hot and the West Indies bowling — at least in the first two thirds of South Africa’s innings — was disciplined.

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The 22 year old had her favourite boundary option — that delicious cover drive — cut off by a fielder placed on the boundary from the first over. The West Indies succeeded in cramping her room, not allowing that drive and forcing Wolvaardt to locate new scoring areas.

That she did, flicking balls off her legs or shifting her weight onto backfoot to manipulate the bowler's length allowing her to pull deliveries through the legside. It was a display of different skills and it will serve her well as she heads into the World Cup, that she got this kind of stiff examination and succeeded.

South Africa’s batters were noticeably more aggressive at the start of the innings after Sune Luus chose to bat. Tazmin Brits wacked four boundaries in an innings of 18 that lasted just 13 balls, while Anneke Bosch, one of three changes to the starting line-up from the first two matches of the series, tried to thump every ball not aimed at the stumps, but quickly ran out of luck after scoring just 5.

With two wickets down by the seventh over, Luus and Wolvaardt decided to rein matters in; the scoring slowed appreciably for 10 overs while the pair sought to build a platform. The hard work they put in during the period brought reward as the South Africans gradually turned the momentum of the innings in their favour.

Their third wicket partnership of 141 was perfectly timed, and provided the backbone for the Proteas innings.

Luus continued her good form in the series making a ninth ODI half-century and while it wasn’t her most fluent performance, occupation of the crease and lending Wolvaardt support was vital at that stage of the innings. The South African captain was dismissed when she was bowled around her legs by Anisa Mohammed for 56, an innings that lasted 93 balls and included five fours.

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Wolvaardt gradually grew more confident, although she did wait until after she passed the three-figure mark before unleashing a couple of those trademark cover drives. It was appropriate, given how she’d played all innings, that it was a single to mid-wicket that brought up her third ODI century.

She finished on 117, attempting to increase the scoring rate late in the innings, but not before producing a beautiful lofted drive over long-off for six. She faced 123 balls and hit 11 fours and that six, and the foundation she and Luus provided allowed Chloe Tryon and Nadine de Klerk to take the match beyond the West Indies.

Tryon made 43 off just 24 balls, hitting three sixes and two fours and De Klerk scored 22 off 15 with three fours sharing a partnership that was worth 75 in only six overs. South Africa scored 101 runs in the last 10 overs of their innings.

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The West Indies needed a Deandra Dottin special to get to the 300 the Proteas set, but she faced just 11 balls to make 12 and was dismissed by Ayabonga Khaka in the fourth over. Kycia Knight was the top-scorer for the tourists with 69

There was a solid return to the international scene for off-spinner Raisibe Ntozakhe after four years in the wilderness, as she claimed 1/53 in 10 overs. Khaka starred again, taking two wickets, while Shabnim Ismail picked up four.

@shockerhess

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