Scoring a 'Woman of the Match' award is becoming second-nature for Shabnim Ismail of South Africa. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/Backpagepix

CAPE TOWN – Despite recently turning 30-years-old, and having trudged around the world on the women’s international cricket circuit for more than the past decade, there are no signs of Proteas fast bowler Shabnim Ismail letting up just yet.

In fact, she remains as fiery as ever, and keen to bowl as fast as ever. “Mignon’s husband always says I can reach that 130km/h mark, so I need to go to the gym and pump some iron,” Ismail said after the Proteas’ seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka in their ICC World T20 opener on Monday.

But for all her obsession with the speed gun, Ismail has gained vast experience over the years, which has equipped her to become an astute reader of the conditions. All this came to the fore in St Lucia, particularly when the weather threatened to play havoc with the Proteas’ plans.

Realising the pitch was not a traditional Caribbean surface due to consistent rain that had fallen on the island, Ismail and her long-time partner in crime, Marizanne Kapp hit their lines from the outset to concede just 16 runs in the six-over Powerplay period.

There was simply no let-up, with both pace bowlers claiming a wicket each during those first six overs to peg the Sri Lankans further back. Ismail was rewarded for her consistency with the new ball at the back-end when she picked up another couple of wickets to finish with 3/10 – a performance worthy of the Man of the Match award.

“I always say that Marizanne Kapp and I go hand-to-hand in the bowling. I have always told everyone that we are the best opening pair in the world. We accommodate each very well. The way we performed just displayed our talent out there,” Ismail said.

South Africa’s experience was not just evident with the ball. Although faced with a below-par target of just 100 after restricting the Sri Lankans to 99/8, the chase was filled with potential landmines.

The most threatening was, of course, the looming thundershowers that interrupted the innings break, which brought the Duckworth-Lewis equations to the forefront. This became even more daunting when the Proteas lost both openers Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolfvaardt within the first seven balls.

But with Kapp (38 off 44 balls) promoted to No 3 – and benefiting from the good fortune of the ball hitting her wickets without the bails falling off – along with her captain Dane van Niekerk (33 not out off 45 balls), the pair calmly put together a 67-run partnership that steered the Proteas to calmer waters before Mignon du Preez (16 not out) finished the job.

“I always speak about gaining momentum on our side and I think we did exactly that. Even though we lost two early wickets upfront, I don’t think there was any panic in the changeroom that we were going to get the runs. 

I think the way Marizanne and Dane capitalised in the middle that just showed a lot of character and made it easier to get the win,” Ismail said.


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