Gqeberha — Proteas women's senior players wrapped up in style what has been a rocky road to the Final.
IOL Sport’s Ongama Gcwabe reflects on South Africa’s long journey to their first World Cup final.
South Africa's road to the final of the ongoing ICC Women’s T20 World Cup was one filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Who can ever forget the miserable start to a home World Cup in front of a packed Newlands Stadium on February 10?
South Africa shockingly losing to Sri Lanka at home after demoralising India and the West Indies at home weeks prior to the start of the World Cup was a thought no one had in mind, unless of course you were a member of Chamari Athapaththu’s Sri Lanka women's team.
With only two days to recover, South Africa headed down to Paarl to face New Zealand’s Black Ferns. Still in shock, South Africa shakily claimed victory over the New Zealand women thanks to a world-class bowling performance from Nonkululeko Mlaba.
Mlaba was a beacon of hope for the country as all eyes were on her to repeat her brilliance at St. George’s Park cricket stadium where the hosts went toe to toe with the defending champions Australia.
It was not meant to be for South Africa as Ash Gardner and Tahlia McGrath powered Australia to victory in front of a loud crowd of 8 000 plus fans including the famously entertaining St. George’s Brass Band.
Hopes of a first home semi-final in the history of South African cricket were rapidly diminishing and captain Sune Luus’ defeated body language post-match in Gqeberha further raised concerns over the team’s chances of progressing to the semi-finals.
To the world’s shock, including South Africa, the cricketing Gods were on the hosts’ side when New Zealand beat Sri Lanka to give South Africa a chance of advancing to the semis. The hosts still needed to beat Bangladesh in the last fixture of the round robin phase.
All this time, South Africa’s senior players showed only bits and pieces of what they are known for but just couldn’t put together big performances. Marizanne Kapp was struggling with the bat, Shabnim Ismail was bowling seriously fast but wasn’t striking often enough while Laura Wolvaardt, Tazmin Britz and the rest of the batters looked a shadow of themselves.
Woolvaardt and Britz shakily put together their first hundred run stand in this World Cup and led South Africa to victory against Bangladesh and into the semi-finals.
The stage was set for an encounter of note come Friday February 23 when South Africa was scheduled to face England’s women in yet another World Cup semi-final. Having a history of knocking South Africa out of World Cups, England were favourites.
De Klerk (1-17 in 4 overs), Ayabonga Khaka (4-29 in 4 overs) and Shabnim Ismail (3-27 in 4 overs) pushed England aside with a clinical bowling performance. The trio picked up all eight England women’s wickets that fell on Friday afternoon.
The bowlers’ efforts came after yet another Wolvaardt 50 and a player of the match performance from Tazmin Britz who struck 68 off 55 deliveries against a potent attack that included the highly rated Sophie Ecclestone. Kapp’s 13 ball 27 was just what the Proteas women needed, having lost the openers and her performance marked a return to form from the experience all-rounder.
Through it all, South Africa made it to the final and their names will be forever etched in the history books.