Momentum Proteas Gear Up for Final Pool Match vs India

Momentum Proteas will look to address some of their concerns that have plagued their ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup campaign as they take on India in their final pool match on Sunday, 27 March 2022. Photo: Cricket South Africa (Instagram)

The Momentum Proteas booked their spot in the semi-final after a washed-out match against West Indies in Wellington which means their final group game in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2022 against India at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Sunday, 27 March, is somewhat of a free hit.

With nine points in the bag, they will remain second on the table regardless of the day’s results. However, the outcome of the game will have an impact on whom Suné Luus’ team face in that knockout game.

With that sense of freedom and a clear opportunity to focus on their skill, Luus and co. will be keen to address some of the issues that have plagued their campaign so far.

For starters, their batting has been a major area of concern. Despite posting progressively improved scores, South Africa have relied heavily on the pair of Laura Wolvaardt and Luus at the top of the order to set a platform, and the attacking instincts of Marizanne Kapp and Chloe Tryon lower down to push them past the 200-run mark.

Aside from them, the middle order has struggled to find any consistency in the tournament so far. They have often lost wickets in clumps, leaving them short of firepower at the back end of the innings.

However, a couple of positives to emerge in the last two games are the form of 2021 ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year, Lizelle Lee, and senior batter Mignon du Preez. In the game against Australia, Lee nudged her way to 36 off 44 deliveries, sharing an 88-run opening stand with Wolvaardt, before she was dismissed by Alana King.

In the following game against West Indies, with the Proteas tottering at 22 for 4 in the sixth over, former skipper du Preez scored a breezy 38 not out off just 31 balls before rain interrupted proceedings.

“It was just great that despite losing a couple of wickets in the West Indies game I felt Mignon put up her hand which is fantastic to see,” Proteas vice-captain Tryon said in the pre-match press conference on Saturday, March 26. “We are at the business end of the tournament now, so just to see this kind of performance is always fantastic. We know what a good player she is, and we knew she was about to bounce back sometime, so I’m just thankful that she’s a little bit positive going into the India game.”

If du Preez’s form has truly turned, it comes as a good sign for South Africa, especially considering how proactive she has been in recent years against spin. Within a batting line-up that has largely struggled against the slow bowlers in the middle overs – piling up the dots and also losing wickets in clumps – her movement around the crease, the constant search for scoring opportunities and her ability to hustle between the wickets will hold South Africa in good stead against India’s high-quality spin attack.

In previous matches, both Bangladesh and Pakistan managed to slow South Africa’s scoring rate through the use of their slow bowlers in the middle overs, and Tryon is aware that Mithali Raj’s team will look to do the same. But she insists that South Africa have a better plan of attack.

“I think at the end of the day with the way you want to approach spin is just making sure we’re still playing positive cricket. We know we want to try rotate the strike as much as we can and I felt that we haven’t done enough of that,” said Tryon.

“I think it’s just making sure that we’ve got really good plans against them and kind of back ourselves in that way and not kind of hold back a little bit. We are at the business end of the World Cup now and we don’t want to be eating up too many dot balls.”

Those positives aside, South Africa continue to grapple with the issue posed by their No.3 batter. Both Tazmin Brits and Lara Goodall have been provided with opportunities at that position, and neither has quite cemented their spot just yet. In four opportunities, Brits has managed 44 runs at a strike rate of 40, while Goodall has managed 37 runs in two innings at a strike rate of 38.

Neither batter has quite been able to get off strike very well, thus lowering of the run rate which adds pressure on the batter at the other end. Calls for a batting order shuffle seem to have gotten louder, but the management have continued to show faith in their players.

If the batting has steadily improved through the World Cup, South Africa’s bowling showed signs of weakness against Australia. The pace trio of Kapp, Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka have done a bulk of the heavy lifting, but the rest of the bowling line-up failed to keep the Australian batters in check. Tryon struggled to find her rhythm, Tumi Sekhukhune, in her maiden World Cup game, looked out of her depth, and Luus provided no control either. Australia climbed into the bowling, scoring freely all around the ground, racing to their target of 272 with five wickets and four overs to spare. In the absence of Masabata Klaas, South Africa were severely shown up against the six-time champions. They will be desperate to right those wrongs come Sunday.

It is likely that Klaas will get another day of rest with South Africa’s semi-final spot confirmed, but whether Luus will opt for Sekhukune again, or pick a lead spinner in Nonkululeko Mlaba remains to be seen.

India are a familiar foe, against whom the Proteas have tasted success, but they will be wary of the damage they can inflict: when India have their backs to the wall, they become a different beast.

While the fixture may not affect their standings on the table, going into the semi-finals, South Africa need to remind themselves how to win. A good outing will only give them confidence going into the knockouts; and if that’s not incentive enough, a win for them could help knockout one of their biggest threats in the tournament.

As Tryon said: “It’s going to be really important that going into the India game, we still put the foot on the accelerator a little bit and make sure we get the momentum going to semi-final.”

 

Photo 1 Caption: Momentum Proteas will look to address some of their concerns that have plagued their ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup campaign as they take on India in their final pool match on Sunday, 27 March 2022. Photo: ICC

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