Proteas women hoping for major impact at World T20 tourney
The 2018 competition is seen as their best opportunity yet to make a significant impact on the competition.
CAPE TOWN - South Africa will start the ICC Women's World T20 2018 as one of the outside favourites to lift the trophy.
This year, South Africa have had varied returns in the T20I format. In February, they lost a home series 3-1 against a solid Indian side. Things did get better as they then enjoyed a 3-0 whitewash of Bangladesh in May 2018.
In the triangular series that followed in England, which included New Zealand, they could only muster one win over England in five matches.
In the lead-up to the World Cup, the Proteas drew their five-match series 2-2 against the reigning World T20 champions, the Windies.
Having toured the Caribbean for a Twenty20 International series in September, South Africa will know the conditions well.
Skipper Dane van Nierkerk is optimistic their tour will give them a slight advantage.
"Going there was a massive advantage for us going into the World Cup. The conditions, it's a bit slower... It's not where you can come in and plant your foot forward and just throw your hands at it. It's quite difficult, you have to adapt your game.”
Van Niekerk knows that the Caribbean pitches are not easy to score big runs on but backs her team to implement their plans to counter the challenges.
"You have to find ways to score. You can't just stand there in the middle and say it's difficult. We have to expand our game and maybe open up the vee behind us, it's something we have spoken about with the batters to go work on, the sweeps and the laps. We didn't play those often."
The Proteas are lucky to have a handful of match winners and world-class performer in their ranks, particularly the destructive Lizelle Lee at the top of the order, who found form in their last two T20I matches in Tarouba, Trinidad, scoring 54 (38) and 42 (24) respectively.
The impressive 19-year old Laura Wolvaardt is likely to be Lee’s opening partner, forming a perfect foil for her as the duo found success against the Windies last month.
Despite having quality in their ranks, the batting is the biggest concern as they struggled to get meaningful runs in their warm-up matches.
The bowling remains the strongest aspect of the South African side, as they have pace, spin and guile in their bowling ranks.
The Proteas will come up against the reigning champions, the Windies, in Group A, as well as Sri Lanka, England and Bangladesh. They will fancy their chances against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and then will look for one victory against either England or the Windies, who are ranked number 3 and number 4 respectively, to see them through to the semifinals.
South Africa’s core team remains unchanged from the side that narrowly lost to the hosts England, in the semifinal of the ICC Women's World Cup in July of 2017.
Their continuity is one of their best assets, with eleven of the fifteen players in their current squad involved in last year’s 50-over World Cup.
In Marizanne Kapp, South Africa have the one of the most experienced pace bowlers at the tournament and one of the most highly-rated all-rounders.
Shabnim Ismail is another one to watch out for as she is a throwback to the aggressive fast bowlers of years gone by with her pace and accuracy. She is also South Africa’s leading wicket-taker in T20Is.
In addition, Masabata Klaas’ consistency and the leg-spin of Van Niekerk will make for a very potent bowling attack which boasts variety and quality.
South Africa's bowling stocks took a hit with the loss of Ayabonga Khaka, she is unavailable after failing to recover from a shoulder injury in time.
The lack of experience within the squad is also a worry as there are also players in the squad who have never played big tournament before.
The below-average form in their warm-up matches will also be a concern, specifically their batting which struggled against Australia in the final warm-up match.
HISTORY AT THE WOMEN’S WORLD T20
South Africa reached the semifinal of the tournament when it was held in Bangladesh in 2014. They failed to go past the first round in the Women's World T20 in 2016. The 2018 competition is seen as their best opportunity yet to make a significant impact on the competition.
Lizelle Lee, Marizanne Kapp, Shabnim Ismail, Dane van Niekerk, Masabata Klaas.
#WT20 A PEAK AT THE PROTEAS WOMEN OPPONENTS, SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka have appeared at every World T20 but have never made it out of the group stages. A consolation is that they have won at least one game at every tournament.
In 2016, they put up their best display at a tournament, winning two games and finishing third in their group.
Their current form is a concern as Sri Lanka have had a poor year in T20Is, losing nine games and winning just three against Malaysia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The marquee moment to showcase their poor 2018 has to be their loss to Thailand at the Asia Cup.
Apart from their skipper Chamari Athapaththu, Sri Lanka’s strength is their experience. The squad contains six of their seven most capped players, with four of their players having played in every World T20 to date.
Sri Lanka’s batting statistics is tragic, with not a single one of their players averaging more than 20. This year they’ve scored just 75 off 20 overs against Pakistan, and been dismissed for 105 by Thailand. They did, however, record their highest ever score in September 155, in a loss against India.