Both the Proteas womens and the mens teams delivered on their captains’ calls to be more aggressive in their respective T20 Internationals in Cape Town, a style they will both want repeated at the Wanderers today.
In the case of Dane van Niekerk, the new style is a reflection of the lessons her side learned from a poor World T20 campaign in the West Indies last November. For Faf du Plessis, their attacking play is a continuance of the methodology he wants his side to use in both white-ball formats.
Both team were successful in Cape Town. The SA womens team beat their Sri Lankan counterparts by seven wickets with 34 balls to spare, a proper thumping in a T20 game. The mens team emerged on top after a tighter affair against Pakistan, winning by six runs.
Both captains led from the front; Van Niekerk producing a superb all-round display - claiming 3/12 in four overs as the Sri Lankans finished on 90/8, following which she scored an unbeaten 71 off 55 balls in South Africa’s run chase.
Van Niekerk said the series with Sri Lanka must be viewed in the broader context of what the side is trying to achieve as it looks to try and qualify directly for the 50-over World Cup in two years time and to development into a stronger T20 team ahead of next year’s World T20 in Australia.
“Each series will be a stepping stone for us,” said Van Niekerk. “It’s not just about what we do on the field, but off it as well and hopefully we can tick those boxes. We’ve been given the resources after the disappointing World T20, we had the camp which was brilliant for us and I can already see the benefits of some intervention, some hard chats and some very hard work that the team’s been doing at home in the last few months.”
In keeping with that theme, the decision to drop Lizelle Lee because she failed to adhere to the team’s fitness standards speaks volumes for the new attitude that’s been adopted. Lee has been South Africa’s most explosive batter in the last two years and the starts she provided were crucial to rhythm the side tried to achieve with the bat.
Van Niekerk is trying to take more of that load on her shoulders in this series and is hopeful that some of the senior players like Marizanne Kapp, who batted at no3 at Newlands, and Mignon du Preez will provide the necessary assistance in the coming weeks.
Du Plessis meanwhile, will be taking a break from Sunday as he looks to recharge the batteries ahead of the Tests and ODIs against Sri Lanka’s men’s team later this month.
He scored 78 off 45 balls at Newlands sharing a stand of 131 for the second wicket with the impressive Reeza Hendricks, who made 74 off 41 balls. “There's been a lot of cricket, especially the three format players have played a lot. Personally, this is an opportunity for me to get the tank filled up again for the Test series (against Sri Lanka),” said Du Plessis.
David Miller was appointed as stand-in captain for the remainder of the series.
The women’s match will start at 10 am, while the first ball in the men’s game will be bowled at 2.30pm
SA WOMEN’S SQUAD: Dané van Niekerk (capt), Suné Luus, Lizelle Lee, Tazmin Brits), Mignon du Preez, Lara Goodall, Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp, Saarah Smith, Tumi Sekhukhune, Zintle Mali, Faye Tunnicliffe, Masabata Klaas, Nadine de Klerk.
SA MEN’S SQUAD: Gihahn Cloete, Junior Dala, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wiaan Mulder, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lutho Sipamla, Rassie van der Dussen.