CAPE TOWN – In the end, the real tension South Africa endured on Wednesday was watching the television screens in their dressing room for the result of the two other ICC Women’s World Cup matches.
And then it all broke up into sheer elation. Australia had trounced India and England defeated New Zealand. All of this meant that the Proteas, who had earlier in the day smashed Sri Lanka, had qualified for the World Cup semi-finals.
“It’s all a bit surreal. The girls have worked really hard on trying to achieve this. It’s actually quite insane,” Proteas captain Dané van Niekerk told Independent Media exclusively from Taunton, England.
“No goal is achieved yet though. We here to win a World Cup and we’ve still got one match left against Australia and then the semis, so still lots of work ahead.”
From the first ball to the last ball on Wednesday, the Proteas were ahead of Sri Lanka in their penultimate group match. They duly won by eight wickets after comfortably passing Sri Lanka’s measly 101 with 161 balls still at their disposal.
Van Kiekerk claimed 4/24 – her third four-wicket haul of this Women’s World Cup – to push her overall tally to 13, which elevated her to the top of the tournament’s list of highest wicket-takers.
South Africa have only ever once reached the semi-finals of the global jamboree in five previous attempts. That was way back in 2000 in Australia under the leadership of Daleen Terblanche.
For all Terblanche’s fighting qualities in trying to promote the women’s game that now serves the likes of Van Niekerk so well, the current Proteas skipper is arguably superior in not only her leadership abilities, but also skills.
Offering scant regard for a venue renowned for favouring the batters, Van Niekerk and her bowling unit ran through a Sri Lankan line-up that simply never got going once their ace opener Chamari Atapattu fell to Marizanne Kapp’s first ball.
Van Niekerk continuously harps on about how she’s not happy with her delivery of the ball, but it certainly is working for the skipper at the moment. Not a significant turner of the ball like her fellow leggie Suné Luus, Van Niekerk is instead quicker through the air, which deceives the batters.
Three of her dismissals on Wednesday were due to Sri Lanka’s batters attempting the sweep shot as they only got top-edges to be caught on the leg-side.
“Yeah, look, my bowling and batting, both are working, so I’m not going to complain. Our team’s been performing really well. Every game has been a team effort. My opening bowlers are setting up our games. That I’m here is because of them and the individual performance the others have been putting up,” Van Niekerk said.
“Coming into the World Cup, I hadn’t bowled as much as I had to. I was a bit wary. I wasn’t sure how it was going to come out. At the moment, though, it’s going really well and I’ll take it. Hopefully I can contribute to the team in the next few games.”
The seamers once again ably performed their duties, with Shabnim Ismail striking at the top and back-end of the innings to finish with 3/14, while Kapp, of course, claimed the big wicket of Atapattu.
There were also wickets for Masabata Klaas, who came into the side for the first time for left-armer Moseline Daniels, and Luus.
The batting unit also showed it is not dependent on powerhouse opener Lizelle Lee to haul in totals after the right-hander suffered her first failure of the tournament.
Even the loss of the experienced Trisha Chetty couldn’t derail the run-chase, with Laura Wolvaardt (48 not out) and Mignon du Preez (38 not out) combining elegantly for an unbroken 78-run partnership to book the Proteas’ semi-finals spot.