The Proteas Women’s bid to seek an automatic qualification in the 2021 Women’s world cup received a major boost as the tourists, under the returning captain Dane van Niekerk posted a comfortable and comprehensive victory over the White Ferns.
Demonstrating one of the best opening stands against a quality bowling attack in the recent times, the Proteas Women were led brilliantly by the 163 run-stand between two belligerent and clear hitters of the cricket ball in Lee and Wolvaardt.
The first wicket would fall only upon the completion of 31 overs, signaling the intent and consistency with which two of the best Proteas batswomen went about their business. But it was the opening stand that guided SA women to the path of a much-deserved win, seizing early advantage into the 3-match ODI series, with the next game beginning only Monday.
Among the strongest sides in international cricket as also among the fiercest outfits to compete against, someone who had mauled the Proteas back in 2016- winning by a comprehensive margin of 5-2- the first ODI simply didn’t belong to the White Ferns.
After winning the toss and electing to bowl, perhaps the right call under the circumstances, the Proteas trio of Klass, Ismail and Kapp were immediately on the task as they made the accumulation of runs extremely difficult for the Kiwi batswomen.
It wasn’t that runs didn’t come from the middle order but South Africa, buoyed by handy and accurate medium pace bowling made most of mounting the pressure on the otherwise flamboyant New Zealand.
So what were the key moments from Proteas Women vs White Ferns 1st ODI 2020?
Proteas Women Upped By Impressive Opening Stand
Clearly the match-winning and game-changing 163-run stand between Wolvaardt and Lee was the most decisive moment of play during Proteas Women vs White Ferns 1st ODI 2020.
The familiar ball smashers for South Africa got the team off to a flier, striking boundaries with glee and never really struggling to find the gaps, even as they faced a barrage of medium pace from both ends, Rosemary Mair, Huddleston and Devine attacking in tandem but without any success.
The key to Proteas Women’s possible victory, in New Zealand, could well get down to how well does this pair perform in the games that lie ahead.
For Monday, though, there would be nothing else that Niekerk would want other than Lee and Wolvaardt, to continue to score freely the way they did in the recently-concluded game.
On her part, Woolvardt, who didn’t have the best of years in 2019 would want to capitalize on a sterling start to her new year, having carved 91 very valuable runs from the top order.
Lizelle Lee Begins 2020 With A Bang
Lee has begun her new year with a bang! (RealTime images)
For someone whose batting combines the flair of a Herschelle Gibbs and sheer power of a Virender Sehwag, how was Lizelle Lee ever going to be out of contention of something special in Proteas Women vs White Ferns 1st ODI 2020?
Implicit in Proteas Women’s successful run chase of 260, quite a tricky score considering they were up against an attack featuring Bates, Devine, Kerr, and the returning Huddleston, was Lee’s fierce batting up the order.
Someone whose natural flair to explore the gaps and find the boundaries early on increases the tempo of scoring, Lee, who witnessed a fine run in T20s last year albeit moderate success in the ODIs- 154 runs from 6 games- came out all guns blazing in her 99 of as many balls.
But among the defining moments during the Proteas women vs White Ferns 1st ODI 2020 was the impressive start one of South Africa’s most reliable and free-scoring batswomen provided, emerging as the perfect antidote to New Zealand’s bowling hopes.
Can Lee continue to pile on the runs in the games ahead?
Katie Perkins’s Fine Fifty Emerges In Vain
If there was ever a game that reminded New Zealand of the importance of their ever-handy middle-order batswoman in Perkins, then the opening contest of the bilateral series was it.
Stationed in the White Ferns’ middle order, Katie Perkins, the top scorer for Devine’s side made most of the opportunity to score in what were testing circumstances for the hosts especially after the opening pair of Bezuidenhout and Down struggled to guide the side to a flying start.
In so doing, she emerged as a vital pillar for the White Ferns’ batting line up, absorbing pressure from the middle order.
Against a bowling attack that had the flair and promise of a van Niekerk, Kapp, Klass, and Ismail it wasn’t going to be any easy for White Ferns to compile easy runs.
This was going to be tough especially on a probing wicket, assisting the seamers.
Yet, Perkins, who struck her career-best ODI score – a dutifully compiled 78 off just 83- was able to grind it out in the middle and score well over a strike rate of 90 to prove that while the going was difficult for the batswomen, it wasn’t impossible to score fluently.
For someone who played no cricket whatsoever in 2018 and returned only post-January 2019 for the India series (prior to which her last game came 14 months ago vs Pakistan), Perkins immediately made an impression upon her much-anticipated comeback for the White Ferns.
Even last year, she batted diligently scoring 101 runs albeit featuring in only 4 games, batting at an average of 33. For now, Perkins seems to be the figure of poise that can contribute useful runs to a side minus Satterthwaite.
The only question is whether she along with someone like Rachel Priest can continue to make runs, thus rewarding the faith of the coach and their captain.
Strong Protea Bowling Effort Guides The Team To Control NZ Scoring
The combined attack of Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp, the latter missing out on quite a few international games in 2019 owing to injury, meant the Proteas bowling contingent now had a world-class pair. And the duo immediately put New Zealand scoring under pressure.
On a sticky wicket where one had to grind out for the runs, it soon proved that Dane van Niekerk’s decision to bowl was a good one as sticking to a perfect line and length, the experienced pair of Ismail and Kapp made the White Ferns work hard for every run.
It took the batters nearly 15 overs to notch up the team’s fifty. But by then some damage was already done as Masabata Klass had already struck twice inside the 15 overs. First, she’d remove the over-watchful Lauren Down for a lowly score of 9.
It didn’t take long for the Proteas to then target and wane out the dangerous Bernadine Bezuidenhout, who upon her return to international colors, contributed a useful if not huge 25 off 34 balls, including 3 boundaries.
While Bates, sent in at number 3 and captain Devine, coming in at 4, were able to repair the innings, sticking around for nearly an hour in stitching a 49-run stand, by then it became clear that the Proteas women had succeeded in keeping New Zealand scoring in check.
Among the key highlights of the Proteas Women vs White Ferns 1st ODI 2020 was the economical bowling display of the girls in green. Apart from struggling to contain the experienced Katie Perkins, it wasn’t tough for a focused bowling attack to make it count, removing the destructive Devine, the experienced Priest, and the exuberant Kerr in quick succession to cramp up New Zealand scoring.
The Return of Huddleston
Back in 2016, a year where the Proteas Women perhaps experienced one of their worst dips in form, winning only 2 games in the 7-match ODI series against the same opposition, Holly Huddleston, then only 28, proved to be the big nadir for the batswomen.
Against a strangely low-scoring batting Proteas batting effort, a phenomenon that continued throughout the series, Huddleston, a miserly medium-pacer starred with 10 wickets in the series.
Huddleston, who has now returned to the ODI format, would love to prove herself as a catalyst for change, especially with her side on the back-foot.
Even as she took just 1 wicket, removing the well-set Dane van Niekerk, not before the run chase was firmly in the Proteas’ grasp, it would inspire her to perform better and sneak out more wickets in the contests lying ahead.
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