Proteas women off to perfect start at World T20

South Africa got their ICC World T20 campaign off to a winning start after beating Sri Lanka by seven wickets and nine balls to spare in St Lucia on Tuesday.

Mignon du Preez and Dane van Niekerk celebrate a win in their ICC Women World T20 match against Sri Lanka on 13 November 2018. Picture: @OfficialCSA/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - South Africa got their ICC World T20 campaign off to a winning start after beating Sri Lanka by seven wickets and nine balls to spare in St Lucia on Tuesday.

The win, which came with relative ease, would have satisfied coach Hilton Moreeng after disappointing and concerning batting performances in their warm-up fixtures.

After winning the toss, Dane van Niekerk had little hesitation in sending Sri Lanka in to bat, knowing that the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method could play a factor later in the game with rain always around the corner.

It was a polished bowling effort from the Proteas women as they restricted Sri Lanka to 99-8 in their allotted 20 overs in St Lucia.

The opening pair of Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp set the tone for the innings, with their aggression, movement and accuracy rattling the Sri Lankans early on.

Both bowlers got a wicket in the powerplay, suffocating the Sri Lankans's run-rate with the score on 16/2 after six overs.

Kapp was her accurate self, moving the ball under the lights in St Lucia and earning herself one wicket. The wicket ensured that she joined Ismail (72) as the only women to get 50 T20I wickets for South Africa.

The world-class pair were backed up effectively by the change bowlers Masabata Klaas, Tumi Sekhukhune, Dane van Niekerk and Moseline Daniels, who all picked up a wicket to contribute to a solid effort.

It was an evening of milestones, with captain Van Niekerk joining Ismail and Kapp in that elite club of 50 T20I wickets for South Africa.

While South Africa’s fielding was excellent at times, specifically Sekhukhune and Mignon du Preez, the only blemish were the 24 extras (19 wides) conceded which ended up as Sri Lanka’s second highest scorer. It’s a habit they will need to curb quickly if they plan to advance deep into the tournament.

Although, South Africa’s bowling effort lost their way towards the back end of the innings, allowing their opponents some easy runs with uncharacteristically loose bowling which opened the gateways for a flurry of boundaries, it was Ismail who finshed the innings where she started it, shattering the stumps twice more in the final over of the innings to end with figures if 3/10 in four overs.

Her partner Kapp ended with 1/13 in four overs while skipper Van Nikerk was economical with her leg spinners, finishing with 1/7 in her four overs.

Chasing a target of 100, South Africa got off to the worst possible start, losing both openers Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt within the powerplay.

However, it was Kapp and Van Niekerk who brought calm to the crease and stabilised the innings. The pair knocked the ball about, rotating the strike and playing no-risk cricket, exactly what the situation required.

While Kapp and Van Niekerk were measured as a pair, they hit their boundaries at crucial times, which kept them ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern score (DLS).

After helping to drag South Africa from 6/2 until 71/2, Kapp was eventually trapped LBW for 38 runs, a crucial contribution to round off another excellent all-round performance.

Former captain Mignon du Preez joined the current captain and they took the Proteas over the line with little fuss, Van Niekerks’ innings epitomising a captain's knock. She was cool under pressure and rarely flustered, hitting two boundaries in her innings.

South Africa won with nine balls to spare and with relative ease. South Africa will be happy with their first World T20 outing as they performed with both bat and ball. The win will instill confidence ahead of a challenging match next against the hosts and defending champions, the West Indies.