By Colleta Dewa
Johanesburg - The Proteas Women made an encouraging first impression during their 2018 ICC World T20 campaign when they defeated Sri Lanka by an assertive seven wickets at the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground in St Lucia, West Indies, on Tuesday.
The Proteas victory has been credited mainly to the exceptional capabilities of the team captain, Dane van Niekerk, who is also ranked as the sixth-best all-rounder in the world on the ICC’s rankings.
Van Niekerk displayed her highest level knowledge of the game with her double act and efficiently guided the team to a seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka.
After South Africa won the toss Van Niekerk played her role with a brilliant display of tight bowling that kept the Sri Lankan batters on the back foot.
She lured number 5 batter, Oshadi Ranasinghe, into edging behind to Lizelle Lee to reduce Sri Lanka to 48-5, before completing her three overs at a cost of just seven runs as she conspired with the dynamic duo of Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp to restrict Sri Lanka to 99-8 off their 20 overs.
Although the Proteas lost both openers after just seven balls of their innings when Kapp and Van Niekerk came together they added a match-winning 67 runs for the third wicket to take the Proteas to within 26 runs of the Sri Lankans’ target.
Mignon du Preez’s presence was also felt alongside the team captain when they shared an unbroken stand of 29 runs off 28 balls to secure victory by seven wickets with nine balls in hand.
Van Niekerk attested her great significance to the team after she had been off the ground on a number of games during the lead-up to the tournament due to injury and poor health.
However, Despite Van Niekerk’s all-round heroics, the Player of the Match award went to Ismail for her stunning performance with the ball that rocked the Sri Lankan batters and set the tone for the Proteas to march to victory.
Despite the team’s victory against Sri Lanka, the coach Hilton Moreeng had earlier raised concern over the inability by his team to practice due to bad weather in the Island.
“Weather is something that you can’t control; we experienced this well in our tour against West Indies in Trinidad last month. Coming here to St. Lucia and not being able to go out and work like we’ve wanted to has been frustrating but we also know that these are some of the areas of the game that we don’t have control over.
We need to worry about what we can control. Our performance on any given day, our preparation building up to this tournament, those are all controllables. The rain, unfortunately, is not and that’s OK, we will deal with those consequences as and when they come,” he said.
The team has generally been struggling with loopholes in the batting unit though the bowlers have enjoyed success in West Indian conditions during the team’s four warm-up matches building up to the tournament.
“I think if you look overall at all of the teams during the warm-up matches you’ll see that they all struggled with the bat at some point. Obviously, that’s not the bar we set for ourselves, but we acknowledge the difficult conditions for batting. It’s why we were here so early so that we can get enough games under our belts to make sure that it’s not such a shock to the system when we play on difficult batting tracks,” added the coach.
Coach Moreeng was also worried over the withdrawal of wicket-keeper Trisha Chetty due to a reoccurrence of a back injury.
“It has been very frustrating for us as a team. You have to feel for a player like Trisha Chetty, who has worked extremely hard and recovered well to get here. It’s really unfortunate, it’s something that’s reoccurred and we couldn’t control,” Moreeng said on Monday.