Revenge is sweet. That is exactly how the Proteas Women will be feeling after thrashing world champions England by seven wickets on Saturday night at New Road.
Dané van Niekerk’s team narrowly lost to the hosts in last year’s ICC World Cup semi-final in Bristol, but returned to England 12 months later a much stronger, confident and well-drilled outfit.
The visitors dominated this first ODI for virtually the entire match, bar arguably the last 15 overs of England’s innings when the hosts recovered from 97/8 to post a respectable 189/9 in their allotted 50 overs. This was primarily due to Katherine Brunt’s undefeated 72 from 125 balls (8x4).
England found themselves in such deep trouble due to Shabnim Ismail (3/25) and Ayabonga Khaka (3/42) striking with the new ball to run through England’s dangerous top-order of Amy Jones (19), Tammy Beaumont (6) and Sarah Taylor (2) with just 29 runs on the board. Both Ismail and Khaka swung the ball prodigiously.
But unlike last year’s World Cup where often the bowlers did all the hard work, the batsmen also played their part this time around. Even the early loss of Laura Wolfvaardt and Suné Luus, reducing the Proteas to 5/2, could not stop the South African tide.
Absolutely sensational by the #ProteasWomen! Congratulations on your 7-wicket win over England! They go 1-0 up in the series! Take a bow Player of the Match @zella15j (92*)! #AlwaysRising #ENGvSA pic.twitter.com/5gx74ZriJW
A marked difference between previous Proteas Women’s teams, especially when they have faced more experienced nations like England, Australia and New Zealand, and Saturday’s outfit was the tactical nous they showed at this crucial juncture.
Instead of retreating, the Proteas took the positive decision of promoting skipper Van Niekerk to No 4 ahead of Mignon du Preez. It reaped the intended rewards, with Van Niekerk striking a half-century during a 103-run partnership with Lizelle Lee.
Van Niekerk played with plenty of intent, particularly against Jenny Gunn, who was smashed for a six and consecutive boundaries in her first over. Van Niekerk was especially strong on the offside, hauling out her powerful square-drive with distinction.
This took the pressure off Lee, who is usually the team’s aggressor, and allowed her to play comfortably without taking any undue risks. This continued even after Van Niekerk was dismissed for a fine 58 off 85 balls (10x4, 1x6) by Amy Shrubsole.
With South Africa still needing 72 runs for victory, England would have hoped their World Cup final hero Shrubsole could repeat her magic of last year’s epic at Lord’s against India.
However, Lee (92 not out) was well set and along with Du Preez, who grew in confidence the longer her innings wore on, the pair ensured the Proteas could celebrate a famous victory in the Midlands before moving to Brighton for Tuesday’s second ODI.