BRISTOL - If South Africa believed they could slip under the radar at this ICC Women’s World Cup, comfortably accepting their underdog status in hopeful progression to the play-offs, their thrashing of the West Indies has certainly blown that plan out of the water.
Suddenly, Dane van Niekerk’s team are on everyone’s radar, with the opposition on high alert for the dangers the Proteas pose.
in the true tradition of South African cricket, it is the pace bowlers that are generating the excitement with the new-ball pair of Shabim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp in particular being feared.
“We’ll be expecting a bit more pace on the ball compared to Sri Lanka, they’ve got a few slightly quicker bowlers than we have faced in the last two games, maybe slightly less spin. With the bat they’ve also got some really destructive players,” England captain and the tournament’s leading run-scorer, Heather Knight, said ahead of the crunch clash with the Proteas in Bristol.
Listening to the opposition talking up their chances is something the Proteas will need to get accustomed to, but they will know that it can’t lead to inflated egos for the cold reality is that England have defeated South Africa in 17 of their last 18 ODI meetings.
It would be a major surprise should South Africa claim the scalp of the hosts - but it is a feat former England batter Ebony Rainford-Brent felt was definitely within the reach of the Proteas in her tournament preview.
“South Africa are definitely going to cause an upset - they’re a massively rising team - and would require them to put in a performance that has exceeded anything that has gone before.”
Proteas coach Hilton Moreeng is certainly aware of the almighty challenge that lies ahead for his team, but wants his team to play the ball and not the woman.
“England are a very good team. We realise we are playing the home side, one of the favourite teams earmarked to win the World Cup. They have always given us a run for our money,” Moreeng said.
"The two teams know each other very well. It’s about who does the basics well. At the moment our squad is in a good space. We’re playing well and the team is moving in the right direction.”
There is a further reason for optimism. Despite’s South Africa’s dire record against the English, the Proteas were actually victorious the last time these two sides faced off at the County Ground, way back in 2003.