Proteas stars light up Women’s Big Bash League

Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) has been kind to its South African contingent.

Star Proteas batter Laura Wolvaardt and her Adelaide Strikers team have already secured their spot in Saturday’s WBBL final after clinching top spot on the table with 11 wins from 14 regular season matches.

The Strikers will play the Brisbane Heat in the final after the Heat overcame two playoff matches to seal their spot in the title decider.

The 24-year-old, who was recently appointed as permanent captain of the national team after doing the job on an interim basis, has been in steady form in the past six weeks of competition.

Wolvaardt is the ninth-highest run-getter in the WBBL with 363 runs at an average of 30.25 with a top score of 73. She’s the second-highest run-scorer at the Adelaide Strikers this season with only her opening partner, Katie Mack outbatting her with 449 runs.

South Africa’s highest run-scorer in the tournament down under is Lizelle Lee, who retired from international cricket last year.

Lee has been destructive for the Hobart Hurricanes clubbing 409 runs, which includes a high score of 101 undefeated against Melbourne Renegades last week. The quickfire century came off only 52 deliveries in a team total of 212 and a 93-run victory. 

Lee’s teammate, Shabnim Ismail, was economical throughout her 14 matches for the Hurricanes but only took 13 wickets throughout the tournament with an economy rate of 6.22 — the seventh-best overall.

Despite the form of the two former Protea stalwarts, the Hurricanes finished sixth on the table and failed to reach the knockout stage.

Mignon du Preez

Mignon du Preez of the Proteas in action against India at Hagley Oval on 27 March 2022 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Peter Meecham / Getty Images)

Experienced heads

Former Proteas skipper Mignon du Preez has been in consistent form for the finals-bound Brisbane Heat.

The diminutive, experienced batter has knocked 369 in 16 innings at an average of 24.6, wedged in between Lee and Wolvaardt in the run-scoring charts.

The 34-year-old has only knocked two half-centuries but has been dependable and brisk in the middle-order, batting at a strike rate of 127.68.

South Africa’s premier all-rounder Marizanne Kapp had a quiet WBBL tournament by her lofty standards.

Kapp struggled with the bat in particular. In the 14 matches she played for the Sydney Thunder, Kapp averaged a mere 9.4, scoring 94 runs in 10 innings.

With the ball, Kapp struggled to penetrate early with the new ball, nabbing 10 scalps at an average of 37.4 although the swing bowler was tidy throughout with an economy rate of 7.4.

The Proteas’ other explosive all-rounder, Chloe Tryon went better with the willow, knocking 277 runs in the late middle-order for the Sydney Sixers at an average of 25.18 and a brilliant strike rate of 131.27.

With the ball, Tryon’s sparsely used left-arm orthodox bowling was effective, picking up nine wickets in the 12 matches she played with best figures of three wickets for two runs over the Sydney Sixers’ win over the Melbourne Stars at the start of the month.

Tryon missed the last two fixtures for the Sydney Sixers due to a groin injury and subsequently will miss the upcoming home T20I series — which kicks off on Sunday — for the Proteas against Bangladesh.

Nadine de Klerk (side strain) and Ayabonga Khaka (knee injury) are the other centrally contracted players who will miss the three-match series due to injury.

Kapp has been rested by CSA although will return for the crucial ODI series.

Proteas Women Pakistan, Laura Wolvaardt

Laura Wolvaardt during the Proteas Women’s World Cup final against Australia at Newlands in Cape Town on 26 February 2023. (Photo: Shaun Roy / BackpagePix)

Permanent captain

Cricket South Africa last week announced Wolvaardt as captain of the national team in all three formats.

It was an expected decision after Wolvaardt led the team to a successful tour of Pakistan in September as well as a fruitful New Zealand visit where the team won the One-day international series 2-1 at the start of October.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Batting Ace Laura Wolvaardt steps up to take over Proteas captaincy

Wolvaardt takes over from Suné Luus who, like Wolvaardt, held the reins on an interim basis. Luus led the team to a T20I World Cup final appearance at the start of the year.

Wolvaardt’s first task will be the home three-match T20I and three-match ODI series against Bangladesh.

“Having Laura Wolvaardt as the official captain, together with a blend of young and experienced players bodes well for our succession planning,” Proteas Women Convenor of Selectors, Clinton du Preez said.

“It will also assist within the excitement we have around the squad in giving young players an opportunity and therefore we are looking forward to seeing them put up their hand and make impactful performances in this upcoming tour.”

The Proteas squad to take on Bangladesh includes several new faces including Ayanda Hlubi and Eliz-Mari Marx who are both uncapped at international level.

“From our perspective, it is about continuing the good work that has been done. We know we are playing against Bangladesh who just came off a very successful tour against Pakistan,” Proteas head coach Hilton Moreeng said.

“For the T20Is, this is where we are going to look, where possible, to blend in youngsters and give an opportunity to expose them at this level to keep growing the base.

“Overall, we have a lot of good youngsters coming through and the squad is becoming stronger and stronger every day with a more challenging environment, so we as a team are looking forward to that.

“It’s another opportunity for some of these youngsters to show what they can do while not losing sight of what we want to achieve overall when it comes to the entire tour.”

The three-match ODI series against Bangladesh forms part of the ICC Women’s Championship to determine who qualifies directly for the next 50-over World Cup in India in 2025.

South Africa are currently fourth in the standings, tied on points with fifth place Pakistan. The top six teams on the 10-team standings qualify directly for the World Cup, while the bottom four sides will play a World Cup Qualifying tournament closer to the time. DM


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