FILE - South Africa's Shabnim Ismail bowling. Photo: Bruce Lim / www.photosport.nz
FILE - South Africa's Shabnim Ismail bowling. Photo: Bruce Lim / www.photosport.nz

Shabnim Ismail keeps on delivering for the Proteas

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Jun 2, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - Shabnim Ismail’s seven-ball battle with Australia captain Meg Lanning in the final of the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) final last November lit the touch paper on what was an amazing season for the Proteas fast bowler.

Named South Africa’s Women’s Cricketer of the Year on Monday, Ismail outlined the benefits of her extra efforts being rewarded.

“We have a new strength and conditioning coach who’s helping me loads. It just shows that the hard work I’ve been putting in behind the scenes is paying off,” she said.

Ismail hadn’t started that tournament – the most high-profile franchise competition in the women’s game – in the best form.

She’d been off since March 2020, following SA’s dramatic defeat in the semi-final of the T20 World Cup, where Lanning – arguably the best batter in the sport – had shown great skill and resilience to keep South Africa at bay and propel her team to the final.

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Lockdown happened, and seven months later, Ismail was Down Under, making a sluggish start to the WBBL. She needed to show patience ... Her experience allowed her to cut herself some slack and as that tournament came to its conclusion, Ismail found her best form.

Her battle in the final with Lanning was riveting viewing – pace, allied with swing, kept the Aussie great pinned down. Lanning offered a chance that was dropped on the boundary, until a few balls later, Ismail swung one away from the right-hander that found the edge.

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That battle, and her being named Player of the Match in the final – the first time an overseas player had won that award – gave Ismail the confidence she needed ahead of the international season.

Her success for South Africa last summer, in which she played her 100th ODI, was illustrative of the continuing growth of the national women’s team.

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Through a difficult period because of the pandemic, thanks to Cricket SA’s planning, they got some much needed game-time under their belts, and winning those series in India in particular underlined what a world-class side the Proteas have become.

The real test, however, comes in the next two years. In March 2022, the 50-over World Cup will be played in New Zealand, while a women’s T20 tournament will be held at the Commonwealth Games in July.

Then follows, in February 2023, the T20 World Cup, which South Africa will host.

Rarely will the spotlight be as bright on Ismail and her Proteas teammates as during those 12 months.

Ismail will be 33 in October, but last summer indicated there was no sign of her slowing down.

The Proteas can’t afford for her to do that. She and new-ball partner Marizanne Kapp are one of the team’s most potent weapons, and as she showed for the Sydney Thunder in that WBBL final, when she steps over the rope and into “that beast mode”, as she calls it, she’s among the most devastating players in the game.

“I took my career-best (in T20 Internationals) last season, and I feel if I’m winning, the team’s winning, which is nice to see,” she said.

South Africa will need for that to continue. Success at international level feels a hair’s breadth away for the Proteas, and for a medal to be secured, Ismail needs to keep winning.

IOL Sport

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