Big year awaits Protea Women Cricketers
JOHANNESBURG – Dané van Niekerk’s squad will have five weeks together ahead of the ICC World T20 in Australia, but well before then they have a pressing engagement in New Zealand that demands the side’s attention.
Starting on Saturday week, the Proteas play a three-match ODI series against New Zealand in which crucial points in the ICC Women’s Championship are up for grabs. Those points determine which teams will gain automatic qualification for the 2021 50-over Women’s World Cup in New Zealand.
Thereafter, Van Niekerk’s Proteas play five T20 Internationals, where they will properly ramp up their preparations for the World T20 tournament, which for the South Africans starts with a match against England at the Waca in Perth on February 23.
The three ODIs against New Zealand’s White Ferns, will go a long way towards determining the South African team’s schedule for the rest of this year. As hosts the White Ferns have already secured a spot in the World Cup, while four other teams will also earn an automatic spot through the Womens Championship - an eight team competition spanning two years, which sees teams facing each other in a minimum of three matches per series on a home and away basis.
Van Nierkerk’s side currently occupy fifth place on the table behind Pakistan on net run rate and ahead of New Zealand by two points. One win against New Zealand will lift South Africa past Pakistan and a series win would be a real bonus just about cementing their spot in the World Cup next year.
That would see South Africa with a largely open schedule for the rest of the year and would require Cricket South Africa to set up series ahead of the World Cup as preparation for the team. Should the Proteas not qualify automatically, they face a busier schedule, with a qualifying tournament in the offing.
Their next - and final - opponents in the Women’s Championship are Australia, who they’ve never beaten in an ODI. The Australians visit South Africa in March, and neither Van Niekerk nor head coach Hilton Moreeng will want to be in a position where the side must win in that series to secure automatic World Cup qualification.
Failure to finish in the top five would see South Africa forced into a qualification competition, which takes place later this year in Bangladesh.
There the three sides who didn’t qualify automatically through the Women’s Championship will play in the World Cup qualifier tournament alongside Bangladesh and Ireland, and the winners of five regional events, for the last three World Cup spots.
For now that will be the furthest thing from the South African players’ minds however.
They have just come through a tough training camp at Cricket SA’s High Performance Centre in Tshwane, and will have five weeks together before the World T20 starts for them in Perth on February 23 against England.
That should help solidify bonds, while the time away out of the spotlight will also allow preparation for that tournament to take place in a relaxed environment.@shockerhess