Cape Town — The Proteas Women’s team fulfilled the dreams and desires of a nation on Friday at Newlands to reach the final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup.
At times it felt as the entire Mzani’s population was at Newlands spurring Sune Luus’ team on - and they were rewarded with the opportunity to come back on Sunday when the Proteas will face Australia in the tournament showpiece.
It is an experience nobody quite knows what it will be like because since 1992 when the Proteas’ men’s team first participated at the World Cup in Australasia, nobody has progressed this far.
But these Proteas women want to break boundaries. And they did it in fine style. The fact that it came against England made it just a little bit sweeter.
It required every bit of skill, courage and determination because this English team is one of the most feared outfits in the world. It was just in their last game that they posted a record score in a women’s T20 World Cup.
But Luus’s team were not prepared to take a backward step. From the moment they won the toss and elected to bat, they played on the front foot.
The opening pair of Laura Wolvaardt (53) and Tazmin Brits (68) absorbed the early pressure before breaking free after assessing the conditions were favourable for batting. After their unbroken 114-run opening stand that booked the Proteas’ place in the knockout stages, they followed it up with another impressive 96-run stand.
It was the perfect platform for the wily Marizanne Kapp (27 not out off 13 balls) to provide the late-innings gusto as she swept across the Newlands turf like the famous south-easter to finish the innings with a flurry.
But this contest was also going to be decided when South Africa took the field. England’s much-vaunted batting unit versus the Proteas bowling attack.
And as expected England roared out of the starting blocks. Their style is to take the game to the opposition and nearly silenced the boisterous Newlands crowd early on.
Something though was different on this glorious Friday. The Proteas were not taking a backward step. The hurt from previous semi-final defeats was burning inside and they were not wanting to go back to that dark place.
It is here when the senior players are required to show their experience of the big occasion. And that’s just what Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka did.
They had help from the irrepressible Nadine de Klerk that put the breaks on with a miserly spell of 1/17 from her four overs, but it was the duo that delivered the crucial strikes.
Khaka produced the game-changing 18th over when she claimed three wickets that had Newlands erupting, but it was Ismail’s two upfront before closing out the game with England requiring 13 runs off the final six deliveries that set off scenes that will be remembered for years to come here under Table Mountain.
Included in the last over dramatics was Ismail sending England captain Heather Knight on her way that was the seal on a performance for the ages.
South Africa: 164/4 (Wolvaardt 53, Brits 68, Eccelstone 3/22)
England: 158/8 (Sciver-Brunt 40, Wyatt 34, Khaka 4/29, Ismail 3/29)
South Africa won by 6 runs.