Defining Moment for South Africa in Knockout Round of ICC World Cup

Chloe Tryon of South Africa catches out Mithali Raj of India during the 2022 ICC Women's Cricket World Cup match between India and South Africa at Hagley Oval on 27 March 2022 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo: ICC

Following a dramatic end to the group stage in which they defeated India by three wickets in a thrilling contest, the Momentum Proteas will shift their focus to the knockout stage of the 2022 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand.

They will come up against England at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch in a repeat of the 2017 World Cup semi-final fixture. But Suné Luus’ team is keen to turn the tables on their opponents and “create history” on Thursday, March 31.

That would involve erasing the ‘scars’ of a traumatic match in 2017 that ended with the Proteas on the ground, in tears, unable to believe what had transpired.

While Luus insisted the game was a long time ago and would have no bearing on Thursday’s encounter, head coach Hilton Moreeng touched upon the memories and lessons that the squad learnt that day.

“Everyone who was there, most of them are here today,” Moreeng said. “They know how they felt on the day: it was Madiba day, Ayabonga’s (Khaka) birthday – we will never forget.

“It is one of those (experiences) that as a team we’ve learnt a lot of lessons about ourselves, collectively. It was tough on the players, tough on the country, especially the supporters. It’s one that broke the nation down. But it’s also one of those where you sit down, look at and learn from and know you can improve.

“In sport, as they say, no two days are alike. So, from what you’ve learnt it’s just about making sure that given the opportunity again, you can respond better,” he added.

For many years, the Proteas struggled to close out matches under pressure, finding ways to push higher ranked teams before crumbling under the weight of expectation and pressure. However, of late, it seems the tide is turning.

Through this edition of the World Cup, Luus and co. have been put under immense pressure in the league stage but found ways to win those key moments and come out on top. Against Bangladesh and Pakistan, the bowlers came to the party in defence of sub-par totals. In their next two games against England and New Zealand, Laura Wolvaardt and Marizanne Kapp put their hands up in tight chases with the bat. And after the disappointing loss to Australia and the washout against West Indies, the team banded together to get the better of India – first pulling them back with an excellent bowling display in the middle and death overs, and then holding their nerve with the bat to chase down 275.

South Africa’s results in the group stage of CWC22

Match Opposition Result Margin of result
1 Bangladesh Won 32 runs (3 balls remaining)
2 Pakistan Won 6 runs (1 ball remaining)
3 England Won 3 wickets (4 balls remaining)
4 New Zealand Won 2 wickets (3 balls remaining)
5 Australia Lost 5 wickets (28 balls remaining)
6 West Indies N/R
7 Indian Won 3 wickets (0 balls remaining)

 

“I definitely think it’s kind of a team effort. Everybody’s stepping up at the right time, and I think everybody’s been taking responsibility when they’re out in the middle and they know they have to do a job.

“I think that’s been our biggest thing – normally we would just kind of give up. But I think over the last few years, we’ve shown the fight, we’ve shown the character, and that is what has stood out,” Luus said in the pre-match press conference on Wednesday, March 30, reflecting on how far the side has come.

Echoing the skipper’s thoughts, Moreeng suggested the players had, over the years, become “independent thinkers” – learning from their experiences having played around the world in different conditions and situations.

“I think when you look at the last two-three years, the way they’ve grown as players – most of them started applying their thinking and the maturity and experience that has come in. You can see that on days when it was very close, there was somebody that was there, an experienced player, who could make the right decisions,” he added.

That ability to make good decisions under pressure has reflected all through the campaign – from Ayabonga Khaka’s ability to suss out conditions in the first match and bowl South Africa to victory, Kapp’s match-winning innings against England and New Zealand, Luus’ critical on-field decisions, Tryon’s momentum-changing innings at the back end of several matches, Ismail’s ability to halt India’s onslaught with some clever bowling or Mignon du Preez’s calmness that got South Africa over the line in a nail-biting finish.

It is a skill they will hope to put to good use come Thursday.

Since the 2017 semi-final, the teams have played in four ODIs and four T20Is, sharing an equal number of wins across formats. South Africa have the advantage of having beaten England in both their most recent ICC tournament clashes, but there is the issue of never having won a knockout match looming over them.

While Luus is aware of all that is at stake, she is keen for her team to soak in the experience, enjoy the moment, and simply try to play their best cricket.

“Obviously you can’t lose the enjoyment factor of the game,” she said. “We don’t have anything to lose tomorrow; we’ve never been in a final so there’s no real expectation. But obviously, it’s one of our dreams and we will work really hard towards that tomorrow.”

For Luus herself, it will be a doubly special occasion: not only is she captain of a side that’s playing in a World Cup semi-final, but both she and swashbuckling opener Lizelle Lee are set to become the sixth and seventh South African women to play 100 ODIs. Both players will hope to celebrate the occasion with a win – Lee, with some runs, and Luus as the first skipper to do what many years ago seemed improbable: lead the country into a final.

But in their path stand the defending champions, and Knight and co. will not give up their trophy without a fight. They have finally found their rhythm in the tournament and look like they are peaking at the right time. South Africa will, no doubt, have to be at the top of their game. And when the big moments come, they will need to find a way to win them.

 

Photo 1 Caption: Chloe Tryon of South Africa catches out Mithali Raj of India during the 2022 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup match between India and South Africa at Hagley Oval on 27 March 2022 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo: ICC

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