Can the Proteas Rise From the Ashes?
The perfect timing of a pre Games tour to England seemed like a good idea at the time but the events that followed were a nightmare, both on and off the field. Worse still, they have to stay behind in England for another two weeks. Can the Proteas put all of that behind them and take gold in Birmingham?
It was bad enough to learn that regular skipper Dane van Niekirk would be unavailable, but this has been South Africa’s lot over the last two years and they’ve performed admirably in most cases under the leadership of Sune Luus.
What the camp wouldn’t have banked on was losing star batter Lizelle Lee in what has exposed some behind the scenes uneasiness in the group, highlighted by he said/she said comments in the media. It put a cloud over the team and this was reflected in their cricket through the second half of their series against England.
Worse was to come. The brilliant allrounder Marizanne Kapp had to withdraw from the tour for personal reasons. All of a sudden the playing group looked thin, and listless on the field.
The big question is, can they shake themselves free of these distractions and find a way to regain their on-field spark?
Sune Luus (c), Tazmin Brits, Anneke Bosch, Trisha Chetty, Lara Goodall, Sinalo Jafta,
Marizanne Kapp, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Nadine de Klerk, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Mignon du Preez, Tumi Sekhukhune, Shabnim Ismail, Chloe Tryon, Laura Wolvaardt
There is an abundance of talent here with a wealth of experience and they have shown in the past that they will fight to the end. One positive to come out of the absence of Lizelle Lee is the emergence of the likes of Anneke Bosch, Tazmin Brits and Lara Goodall at the top of the order. Don’t be mistaken, one doesn’t simply replace a player of Lee’s calibre with a like-for-like, but these players have shown that they are capable of performing at the top of the order.
One question that continues to be asked is why Laura Wolvaardt is not opening the batting. She is the best batter in this team and an accomplished opener. Too often of late she’s been coming in to do damage repair. This player should have maximum deliveries to face – she can shape the innings at the top as she has done so often before. Partnering her with the left-handed Goodall seems like an obvious win, with Brits to come in at three.
Sune Luus is leading a team minus a lot of experience terms of support. The loss of those senior players means this captain needs to stand taller. She does appear a reluctant leader – this can’t continue, for she must lead the way on the field and not let things drift.
Two ways Sune can provide that leadership is with bat and ball. Runs from the captain have been few and far between on this tour, save for a 93 against Ireland in June. Her leg spin bowling is rarely seen these days. This is a player with two five-fers in T20 Internationals. If Sune can regain form with the bat and confidence with the ball it will have such a positive impact on the team, seeing their leader stand up.
Shabnim and Ayabonga
Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka are one of the best new ball pairings in World cricket. You have the pace, fire and aggression of Ismail, with the impeccable line and length of Khaka. The latter has had a good tour in a team that has been low on morale. Toss Ayabonga the ball and she delivers every time, no fuss, no nonsense.
Shabnim almost seemed to be the face of the discontent within the camp and it was evident through the T20 series against England. Such a key player for South Africa – a genuine wicket taker – but the off-field issues clearly impacted, and that’s not good news for she is a senior player who must stand up for her captain, now more than ever.
Losing the bankable bowling of Kapp is difficult to overcome but Masabata Klaas is no slouch and there are a number of medium pace allrounders in Bosch and Nadine de Klerk who should as a group be able to fill the void.
In the field, one of the top teams in the world. One hopes they go with their best wicket keeper in Trisha Chetty. Too often she is warming the bench, South Africa preferring the steady Sinalo Jafta, but they are a better unit when their best keeper is in the field.
The Road to a Medal
The path to medal glory should be quite straight forward: the off-field woes need to be pushed aside for a week. There is still plenty of talent in this setup as long as it’s all pointing in the right direction.
They need to win two games which means they must target New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The most troublesome of those two games is New Zealand for they are an unknown quantity but if they can get a first up win against them then they will go into the match against England with some momentum.
England is a tough ask given the recent series but there is potential for the Proteas here. The home team will be carrying more Commonwealth Games nerves than any other and while they comfortably beat South Africa recently, they were playing against a side low on morale. If South Africa can lift themselves out of the doldrums then England face a much tougher foe.
To finish it off it’s doubtful that Sri Lanka will cause too much pain, South Africa holding a healthy 9-3 win advantage.
South Africa can definitely be a medal chance if they can rise to the occasion. Can the Proteas rise from the ashes?