JOHANNESBURG – The axing of Trisha Chetty, one of just two players to earn more than 100 ODI caps for the Proteas Women, from the squad to tour England is next month, is the direct result about concerns with the team’s batting, selection convenor Clinton du Preez acknowledged on Monday.
Chetty was a surprise omission from the touring party which will take on World Cup holders England in a three-match ODI series and then play a triangular T20 series that will also involve New Zealand.
The 29-year-old has played 105 ODIs, but has been deemed surplus to requirements for the trip to England, with South Africa seeking to not only solidify the batting, but also adopt a more aggressive approach.
“It’s an area where the top four nations have moved ahead of us,” said Du Preez. “Those countries have average strike-rates in the region of 75 to 80, ours is in the 65 to 70 range.
“We’ve sought skill-set enhancement in terms of being more aggressive, trying to increase our power hitting and strike rotation. Hopefully this will be beneficial.”
Du Preez was quick to explain that Chetty remained part of the broader plans for the national team, but her axing was also indicative of the depth that is slowly being built in the women’s game, and the selectors’ willingness to back those who have performed at domestic level, particularly the provincial ‘Women’s Week’.
Stacey Lackay and Tazmin Brits are the primary beneficiaries of that policy.
Both made their international debuts in the series against Bangladesh, with 23-year-old Lackay playing in all three T20 Internationals, while Brits – a former gold medallist in the javelin for South Africa at the youth world athletics championships 11 years ago – played the last two matches and has been provided with the opportunity to display some of her power-hitting talents in England.
In last Sunday’s last T20 International, she top-scored with 29 off 22 balls in a rain-reduced match won by the Proteas.
In Chetty’s absence, Lizelle Lee will don the wicket-keeping gloves in the 50-over format, having already done keeping duties in the T20s.
It is an option that allows the Proteas Women to play the extra batter.
Against the Bangladeshis, the batting was once more inconsistent.
The players will look back at the first match and know they should have made more of the start they got there when Laura Wolvaardt and Lee put on 77 for the first wicket in 9.4 overs.
The rest of the batting collapsed and they only posted 127/6 in 20 overs.
In the second match, a third-wicket partnership of 96 between Suné Luus (71) and Dané van Niekerk (66) provided the foundation for a solid score of 169/4.
In Sunday’s match, with just nine overs per side possible, South Africa posted just 64, a further indication of the need for greater aggression up front.
Once more the bowlers were to the fore, their variety proving too much for the Bangladeshis to overcome. “My pride and joy are the bowlers,” skipper Van Niekerk rightly exclaimed afterwards.
The depth, the quality and the variety at her disposal make her the envy of most other captains, and it is one of the reasons the South Africans can feel confident about their chances in England and even later this year at the World T20.
Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail, who between them snared eight wickets in the three matches against Bangladesh, are arguably the best new-ball pair in the world.
But rather than the pressure diminishing when they are taken out of the attack, it is maintained thanks to Aya Khaka and Masabata Klaas.
Khaka in particular appears to have elevated her game in the last few weeks, and her progress in England will be crucial.
In the spin department, the emergence of Raisibe Ntozakhe has been one of the highlights of the last few weeks.
The 21-year-old off-spinner played all five ODIs against the Bangladeshis and claimed a chart-topping eight wickets.
But it was her consistency that proved most beneficial, and the part of her bowling that should see her add to her 12 ODI caps in England.
In the T20s her economy rate of 5.37, which offered further indication of the discipline she’s allied to her bowling.
As her development continues, so she will become more of a wicket-taking threat.
The South Africans head to England on June 3 and play the first of three ODIs against England on June 9.
The Proteas Women Squad is:
Dané van Niekerk (captain), Lizelle Lee, Chloe Tryon, Mignon du Preez, Marizanne Kapp, Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Raisibe Ntozakhe, Suné Luus, Laura Wolvaardt, Andrie Steyn, Zintle Mali, Stacey Lackay, Tazmin Brits.