Shabnim Ismail Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN - Shabnim Ismail proved to be the unlikely hero with the bat for South Africa in their ICC Women’s World Cup opener against Pakistan at Leicester on Sunday.

Ismail, who is regarded as the fastest women's bowler in the world, had to perform a rescue act lower down the order to save South Africa from an embarrassing defeat.

Chasing Pakistan’s 206/8 - their highest score in a World Cup match - the Proteas were cruising at 113 without loss in the 26th over.

However, the dismissal of Lizelle Lee for a well-played 60 off 79 balls (8x4, 3x6), when the opener attempted a sweep off Pakistan captain Sana Mir, only to be trapped in front, triggered an almighty collapse.

Fellow opener Laura Wolvaardt, the 18-year-old from Milnerton in Cape Town, was then involved in a mix-up with Trisha Chetty (11) to be run out for 52 off 87 balls (5x4).

Wolvaardt’s wicket was the second of seven Proteas to be sent back to the pavilion for the addition of just 64 runs.

Pakistan’s spinners Nashra Sandhu, Sana Mir and Sadiya Yousuf had brought the subcontinent team right back in the game at that stage with South Africa suddenly finding themselves in real trouble at 177/7 with former skipper Mignon du Preez also back in the hut for 30.

South Africa’s ability to handle the pressure of a major tournament was starting to appear very brittle with three run outs forming part of the seven wickets to fall.

Fortunately for the Proteas, they have a little terrier in Ismail who had earlier in the day bowled with good pace to finish with figures of 2/52.

Prior to the start of the tournament, Ismail was determined to leave her mark after missing three months of last season due to a sanction imposed on her by Cricket South Africa for a breach of discipline.

Ismail, though, held her nerve to put together an unbroken 30-run partnership for the eighth wicket with Sune Loos (15 not out), that took South Africa home.

Ismail was the chief aggressor, with the fast bowler smashing 16 runs off the penultimate over, which included three beautifully-timed boundaries.

“I just looked calm, but I was very nervous,” Ismail said post-match.

"Always nice to contribute with bat and ball, haven’t been doing so enough times. But I wanted to get my side over the line today."

“I was bowling the lines the bowlers were bowling and if anything was in my area I was going to hit it over the top. First of all, I don’t think I bowled well today but getting my side over the line today.

"Myself and Marizanne (Kapp) work very hard in our death bowling and we’re happy with how things worked out.”

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