Classy Wolvaardt leads the way for Proteas at T20 World Cup
When the moment came to slog in yesterday’s crunch T20 World Cup Group B game against Pakistan at the Sydney Showgrounds, she forgoed that wild and rushed approach - Wolvaardt chose elegance.
She hit her first boundary - a lofted cover drive - off the 20th ball of her innings. Off the remaining 16 deliveries she faced, she hit seven more fours.
It was an exhibition of driving that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Louvre. Through the covers, straight down the ground, over the covers - if you want to learn how to drive a cricket ball, then Wolvaardt’s innings is the perfect teaching aid.
“I’m not a natural big hitter,” the 20-year-old said afterwards. Thank goodness she isn’t.
What she has had to do is develop her batting to suit the T20 format. Wolvaardt is a very correct player - her defence is textbook and her cover drive is her signature shot. But in the T20 format she needed to be more aggressive.
The South African team’s management pushed her down the order from the opening spot where she was wasting too many balls in the PowerPlay putting extra pressure on her opening partner Lizelle Lee. In the middle order she is forced to play more positively.
“It’s been quite a journey for me to get my spot in this T20 side. I focus on the basics, if the base is really good you can build from there. I’ve been working really hard, figuring out my plans and I’m really happy it’s working out now.”
She structured her innings beautifully - running well between the wickets initially as she came to terms with a slow and low pitch. When South Africa’s innings scoring rate needed acceleration in the last five overs, she was at the forefront, as the Proteas smashed 54 runs in that period.
Wolvaardt finished not out on 53, her innings lasted 36 balls. Marizanne Kapp with 31 off 32 balls, was the next best for the Proteas.
“If I think about the importance of today, (this being) the World Cup, then this is the biggest contribution I’ve made to this team,” said Wolvaardt.
South Africa’s fielding was sloppy again and at various stages in the first half of Pakistan’s reply skipper Dane van Niekerk’s irritation with her teammates was plain to see. But she, Shabnim Ismail and Nkululeko Mlaba were disciplined with the ball and it was enough to secure the 17-run win and with it a spot for South Africa in the semi-finals.
It’s a huge tribute to the resilience of the players and the coaching especially after the disappointing showing in the Caribbean two years ago when they were knocked out in the group stage.
“The way our game is coming together compared to that last World Cup and to see the position that we’re in now is such a relief for us, we know its there, we’re just so happy it’s showing,” said Wolvaardt.