Johannesburg - The first tentative steps into a new era for the Proteas women’s side occurred with a good ‘come from behind’ series win against Ireland, and most importantly a hatful of lessons for the young players hoping to bear the torch for the national side in the future.
South Africa wrapped up an eight wicket win at the Pembroke Cricket Club in Dublin on Wednesday evening, producing their most dominant performance of the series against an inexperienced Irish team. Captain, Sune Luus, was generally pleased with how her team played, especially in the last two matches, but more encouraged that the central role-players in the triumph, was the squad’s young players.
Opener Lara Goodall finished with an aggregate of exactly 100 runs, after being dismissed off the first ball she faced in the opening match, seamer Tumi Sekhkhune was the leading wicket-taker with eight wickets, while Nadine de Klerk once more showed she had the temperament to thrive on the biggest stage, taking five wickets in the series.
“They took responsibility. Normally there’s big names on the field but we had none of those players, the way they took responsibility was fantastic to see,” Luus said of the trio.
With Marizanne Kapp, Dane van Niekerk, Mignon du Preez and Lizelle Lee not selected for the Irish portion of the tour, the national selectors put the spotlight firmly on the next generation. It was by no means a flawless performance, and having surprisingly lost the first match, the team was under pressure.
“Whatever eleven we put on the field we must believe in them, because the reality is, people are getting older, we are not going to have them around forever and we have to get used to having a younger squad with younger players coming through,” Luus added.
Sekhukhune made some smart adjustments in the latter stages of her spell in the first match, having been too short with her lengths on what was a slow pitch at the Pembroke Cricket Club.
By bowling the ball fuller she forced the Irish batters to hit straight, and by targeting the stumps she was able to create pressure and take advantage of any movement off the surface.
“Tumi sees it as a big opportunity to put up her hand. She saw it as the chance to take the game forward, be the strike bowlers and container,” said Luus.
Goodall too was more assertive, and it resulted in her dominating the power play in the second and third matches and ensuring the Irish didn't gain any confidence in defence of two modest targets in both games.
Despite the series win, Luus felt there was still room for improvement, with the fielding again messy.
“ I’d like to see everyone have a good time in the field. We used to be so scared, we didn’t want to attack the ball or put our bodies on the line, but with a group of youngsters, that thing can easily be fixed. The enjoyment factor around fielding is something we must improve because if you enjoy fielding then automatically the performance starts showing.”
The two teams will face each other in a three match One-Day International series, which is the start of the new cycle of qualification for the 2025 World Cup. The top five teams will gain automatic qualification for that tournament.
The opening match of the series will be played on Saturday, in Clontarf, a suburb situated in the northern part of Dublin.