Momentum Proteas Take on West Indies in Hopes of Semi-Final Spot

Laura Wolvaardt of South Africa bats during the 2022 ICC Women's Cricket World Cup match between South Africa and Australia at Basin Reserve on 22 March 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: ICC

Following their first loss in the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 at the hands of Australia, the Momentum Proteas will be looking to course correct in order to secure their spot in the semi-final – the equation for them is simple: win at least one of their remaining two games.

First on their list will be the clash against West Indies in Wellington on Thursday, 23 March.

If the South Africa-Australia encounter was about two teams that had not faced each other in five years, the Proteas’ match on Thursday is quite the opposite: the teams have played each other in as many as 22 internationals – 12 ODIs and 10 T20Is – in the last four years. During that time, South Africa have emerged victorious 10 times, West Indies have won seven matches, while the remaining five encounters have been washed out.

More recently, in the six months leading up to the World Cup, the teams played two series – the first in the Caribbean, and the second in South Africa – both won by the Proteas quite comfortably. While the team can certainly take plenty of heart from those performances, they will know very well, that those results count for little in a World Cup environment.

“Look, we’ve played a lot of cricket against them (West Indies),” vice-captain, Chloe Tryon said on Tuesday, 22 March.

“We’ve had a series against them back home just before the World Cup which is great. We know what kind of dangerous team they are. We won’t take them lightly; we don’t take anyone lightly in here.”

Laura Wolvaardt Expected to Lead the Charge

One person who played an important role in both those ODI series wins for the Proteas is opening batter, Laura Wolvaardt. Across eight ODIs, the right-hander amassed 332 runs at an average of 47.48, including three scores over 50. She adjusted beautifully to the slow conditions in the Caribbean, scoring heavily off the back foot, especially against spin, giving herself the opportunity to access a wider scoring area. Back home, on pacier pitches, her front foot proficiency and the ability to score heavily behind square were on display.

Wolvaardt has carried that versatility and momentum into the World Cup, collecting 350 runs in five matches with four consecutive half centuries. She has been the centrepiece of South Africa’s batting, holding together a line-up that has struggled to find any consistency in the middle order. Her scores through the tournament so far read, 41, 75, 77, 67 and 90, and she currently sits second on the run-getter’s list.

Her returns have been steady, but what is glaring is the inability to convert the fifties into hundreds – something that has crossed her mind as well.

“It is something that I’ve thought about, it’s not nice going out three times in the 60s or 70s and not quite getting to 100 when I really want to score a century in the World Cup,” she said ahead of the match against Australia on Monday, 21 March.

“But I guess it’s not the worst problem to have either. I could be sitting here with four ducks or something like that. So, it’s obviously a bit frustrating. And if I find myself in that situation again, I might just take a bit of extra focus or an extra second before I face the ball just to really make sure I’m watching it properly.”

“I’ll take 70 every single game from her anytime.” – Momentum Proteas all-rounder, Marizanne Kapp speaks on Laura Wolvaardt’s performance at the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup

Her teammates though, are not too worried about the conversion rate: “Whether she scores a hundred or not, she’s been performing brilliantly for us,” said Marizanne Kapp. “I’ll take 70 every single game from her anytime. I believe a big score is just around the corner.”

Wolvaardt made sure to get out of the dreaded 70s against Australia, but fell short of the century mark again – caught on the long-off boundary trying to take on Ashleigh Gardner.

She will see the match against West Indies as an opportunity to carry forward her run-scoring ways and hopefully register triple figures as well. After all, it was only a couple of months ago that she scored her third ODI hundred against Stafanie Taylor’s team.

Wolvaardt shot into the consciousness of the wider world during the 2017 edition of the World Cup in England. Through that tournament, she mesmerized audiences with her regal off-side play, making opponents and commentators weak in the knees with her picture-perfect cover drive.

While that side of Wolvaardt’s game is firmly intact – she can still thread the gap between any number of fielders stationed at cover – she has expanded her repertoire of strokes all around the ground. Teams have tried to straighten their lines and attack her stumps, but the right-hander has found ways around those tactics.

Her temperament and patience have been tested at different times through the competition, but Wolvaardt has responded in the only way she knows how: head down and bat on. She’s given herself time, seen through the new ball, but made sure to pounce on anything in her arc. In Tryon’s own words, the opener has given the rest of the line-up the “perfect example” of how to approach their innings.

Wolvaardt herself though has been critical of the pace at which she has batted (she has a tournament strike rate of 74.15), but skipper Suné Luus believes her knocks have provided the side with the perfect platform from which to launch.

“I know Laura would think she’s batting too slow at times, but if it isn’t for her 90 or big 50 on the day, we wouldn’t be getting our scores that we’ve been getting.

“I think she has been batting brilliantly and she needs to just continue that. You always have to remember, she’s only 22 and she’s breaking records already – she’s been phenomenal and she’s been the glue to our batting line up.”

With two crucial points on the line, and a tough match against India to come, Luus and co. will be keen to erase the memories of their shoddy show against Australia. They will be wary that a similar performance with the ball against the West Indies could be costly.

A ‘W’ is what they need – a win, possibly powered by a Wolvaardt masterclass!

 

Photo 1 Caption: Laura Wolvaardt of South Africa bats during the 2022 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup match between South Africa and Australia at Basin Reserve on 22 March 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: ICC

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