Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt: The best opening pair in South African ODI cricket
CAPE TOWN - When the debate rages as to who has been South Africa’s best opening pair in ODI cricket the usual suspects will be put forward.
Gary Kirsten and Andrew Hudson? Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs? Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock? All of these men regularly ensured the Proteas began their innings on the front foot.
But after closer introspection, the correct answer would actually be Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt. The duo have been sensational for the Proteas’ Women’s team since first being paired together at the top of the order against Pakistan in Colombo back in 2017, compiling 1915 runs at an average of 47.87 in the process. Amla and De Kock are next best with an average of 46.64.
Back then Wolvaardt was still a teenager sporting pigtails and long bobby socks at Parklands High School, while Lee was an engineering and design student at North West University. Much has changed since with both now fully professional cricketers that are sought after by T20 franchises the world over. And it seems they are only getting better with each innings.
They were at their brilliant best on Sunday again in Lucknow in the first ODI when they amassed a record 169 for the first wicket to help South Africa chase down a 178-run target with eight wickets intact - securing the Proteas’ biggest win over India in the process. Lee stroked an undefeated 83, while Wolvaardt passed 2000 ODI runs en-route to another stylish 80.
The stand for the first wicket was the highest by the tourists for any wicket against India and also beat the previous best of 163 of a top-tier nation that they also put together against New Zealand in Auckland last January.
“Wolfie (Wolvaardt) and I actually joked about it a while ago saying that we want to put high partnerships together,” said Lee.
“At the end here, we actually said we achieved the goal that we wanted to do. We just want to make sure we get the most runs possible upfront to provide the base for the rest of the team.”
In the 41 times the pair have walked out together, they have amassed 13 partnerships in excess of 50 and five of more than 100. Numbers such as these are not achieved by pot luck, but through meticulous planning and preparation. The ability to assess the pitch conditions quickly is also vital.
“I definitely think there was a bit upfront for the bowlers in both innings. I think, though, we probably played the first 10 overs a bit better than they did,” Lee said.
“I think it is one of those wickets that if you stay in, then you can capitalise at the end. We also didn’t approach the chase like we were chasing 177. We looked at it like we're chasing 250.
“It’s also great for confidence. It is something that we needed because in the previous series against Pakistan we were not at our best.”
Lee and Wolvaardt have another opportunity to have a crack at the record books when the Proteas face India in the second ODI on Tuesday (start at 5:30am SA time) at the Ekana Cricket Stadium.