Birmingham Review: South Africa

From Chaos to Calamity

It was a dream preparation for the Commonwealth Games, facing off against the host nation in a series prior, yet it soon became a nightmare. The now widely reported behind-the-scenes problems for the team spilled out onto the field and performances suffered as a result. By the time the team arrived in Birmingham their campaign was as good as over.

A loss against a rejuvenated New Zealand team in the first encounter meant that South Africa needed to win their next two games. Trouble was, the first of these was against the England side that had dominated them over the preceding weeks. A 26 run loss meant their Commonwealth Games was effectively over, with a 10 wicket victory over Sri Lanka a small consolation.

Results:

Batting

The depressing batting stats tell the story of a team struggling on without two of their key batters. A personal issue led to the withdrawal of Marizanne Kapp prior to the series, which also impacted the bowling, while the much publicised spat between management and Lizelle Lee meant that South Africa were minus their best middle order batter and an explosive opener.

The numbers below show that South Africa didn’t have sufficient depth to cover these positions. They had tried different opening combinations in Ireland, then England, but none seemed to have the spots settled. Many called for Laura Wolvaardt to open but South Africa persisted with using this player at number four. She was the team’s highest run scorer with 69, a sorry tale in itself.

Losing Kapp was sheer misfortune, but the Less incident rocked the team. As has widely been aired in public, something that might have been left private and addressed after the tour, whatever the issues behind Lizelle Lee’s fitness, the player would have at least provided stability at the top of the order. Instead, those issues not only kept Lees out of the team, it had a dreadful impact on the rest of the players. These batting stats are the manifestation:

Bowling

After a lacklustre tour of Ireland, Shabnim Ismail was back to her best and along with the  continual improvement of left-arm spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba,these were the best performers for South Africa.

The remaining bowlers were a bit of a mixed bag. Nadine de Klerk bowled two overs against New Zealand, taking 0-34, dropped for the England game and returned with 3-7 against Sri Lanka. Masabata Klaas was not used in the first two games and also performed against Sri Lanka, taking 2-7.

Ayabonga Khaka was surprisingly off key and was dropped for the final game. This normally bankable bowler was one of the few who performed in the series against England, but was belted out of the attack by New Zealand and England with an economy of 9.63.Embed from Getty Images

Fielding

One of the few bright spots was the wicket keeping of Sinalo Jafta. Normally a substitute for Trisha Chetty, Sinalo had the job to herself for entire games and she relished the task, her best effort with the gloves to date. She looks ready to step up when the inevitable becomes apparent.


What Now?

Many of the players will now settle into franchise cricket, first for the Hundred in England and then on to the WBBL in Australia. Probably a good thing for them to settle into an environment away from the national team.

South African management will want to address the issues leading up to the retirement of Lizelle Lee and wonder if they might have handled it better. Such a massive disruption to the team on the eve of a major tournament clearly did not help the campaign.

What it unearthed was a distinct lack of depth. This team has reached such great heights in the last few years, but with players retiring and the inevitable injuries that happen mean that a strong focus on the next generation of South African stars is paramount.

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