Battered and Bruised South Africa in pursuit of CWG medal after horrid England tour

South Africa rejoicing © Getty Images

South Africa’s recently culminated tour of England has been nothing really to write home about. South Africa failed to even win a single game on the tour and were outplayed by England repeatedly. In addition to the battles on the field, the team management got drawn into an unwanted controversy that sparked after Lizelle Lee’s mid-tour retirement.

“It’s been tough to be on the losing side because we haven’t experienced it for a while but there are girls who were around when we used to lose every game. We have to find a way to deal with things and help each other get through,” Lara Goodall, said after they lost the T20I series to England.

Although Suné Luus’ side is not heading into the Commonwealth Games 2022 with a lot of confidence, the group comprises players who are capable of getting the team back to winning ways.

Strengths

Chloe Tryon down the order

One of the biggest strengths that the Proteas have is the presence of Chloe Tryon down the order, who can biff the ball well. Tryon is capable of taking the attack to the opposition and changing the course of games on her own.

She has a T20I career strike rate of 136.45 – the best in the South African squad. It paints a very vivid picture of her as someone who relishes going hell for leather during her stay in the middle. In addition to that, she is also one of the most experienced players in the team with 74 T20I appearances.

Acclimatisation

South Africa have spent more than a month playing in English conditions. They played a warm-up match against England ‘A’ to prepare themselves ahead of the one-off Test match in Taunton. 

Hence the Proteas have become familiar with the conditions – an advantage that most other participating countries do not have leading into the Commonwealth Games.

ALSO READ: Marizanne Kapp ruled out of Commonwealth Games 2022

Weaknesses 

Lack of brute force at the top

The unforeseen retirement of Lizelle Lee has deprived the Proteas of a batter upfront who could go with the hammer and tongs approach. Lee not only had an impressive T20I strike rate (110.61) but with 82 matches under her belt, she also had a fair amount of experience playing in the format. 

Lee also holds the record for scoring the most runs for the Proteas in the format. Hence, her mid-tour retirement has put the Proteas under the pump and might hurt them in the CWG.

Anneke Bosch, who now has been assigned the opening role, shed light on how badly South Africa are going to miss Lee.

“Obviously Lizelle’s a massive loss. She is one of the best in the world and a very attacking player.”

Inexperienced opening pair 

Teams often prefer heading into major tournaments with a settled and stabilised look as it helps them to hit the ground running. But in the case of the Proteas, they have appointed a new opening pair to provide them with solid starts. 

The South African team management have thrown their weights behind Anneke Bosch and Lara Goodall, but since the pair has only opened together thrice in the format it will be unfair to expect a ‘spectacular’ show from them. 

“I’ve still got a lot of work to do to keep the spot,” Bosch admitted in the post-match press conference after the 2nd T20I against England when she was asked about her role as an opener.

ALSO READ: Anneke Bosch: Making hay while the sun shines in Taunton

Lack of game time for Mignon du Preez 

When the Proteas announced their squad for CWG 2022, one of the highlights of the 15-member unit was the inclusion of their former captain Mignon du Preez. 

Her addition to the team gave a loud and clear message that South Africa wanted her to take care of the middle-order that has clearly struggled to churn out the runs expected of it during the England tour. 

Barring Laura Wolvaardt and Tazmin Brits, who scored 55 and 59 respectively in the first and the third T20I, no other middle-order batter has managed to make any substantial contribution as such. Du Preez only faced seven balls in the first T20I, a ball less in the second T20I and 11 deliveries in the third match. The 33-year-old veteran is clearly short on time in the middle.

Opportunities

First and foremost, CWG 2022 provides South Africa’s skipper Luus with yet another opportunity to showcase her leadership caliber and a chance to solidify her standing as the worthy successor of the regular captain Dane van Niekerk.

 Luus’ leadership during the 50-over World Cup earlier this year in New Zealand was nothing less than praiseworthy as the Proteas had conceded only one game in the group stage before bowing out in the semi-finals against England. 

Apart from Luus, CWG is also an invaluable opportunity for the pair of Bosch and Goodall. After a forgettable outing in the first T20I, where they only managed one run together, the duo turned things around remarkably well in the second T20I and put together the fifth-highest opening wicket stand for the Proteas in the format.

Hence the pair has already shown commendable grit and determination in a very short space of time and will be driven to make the opening spot their own by aggregating runs in the CWG.

Threats

Injury and non-participation

Kapp, who is arguably South Africa’s best allrounder, has been ruled out of the Commonwealth Games 2022. She had withdrawn from the T20I series after her brother-in-law met with an unfortunate accident and Head Coach Hilton Moreeng confirmed that she will not rejoin the squad for the event.

Kapp’s absence is a telling blow for the Proteas. Her strike rate was 123.73 in the 2nd ODI and 114.81 in the 3rd ODI despite English bowlers dictating terms to the South African batters. The most noteworthy thing about those two innings was the fact that they came during the period when the fielding restrictions were relaxed.

On the other hand, Tumi Sekhukhune’s recurrent right groin injury has also ruled her out of the CWG as she is expected to undergo rehabilitation in South Africa. The absence of both players is likely to hamper their chances of doing well in the tournament.

Shabnim Ismail’s lack of wickets

Ismail missed the Taunton Test and the first ODI against England due to a calf injury. When she made her comeback in the 2nd ODI, the Proteas expected her to create an impact immediately but it didn’t happen.

What ails the spearhead of South Africa’s bowling attack is her lack of wickets. She conceded runs at a rate of 6.40 and 7.70 in the 2nd and the 3rd ODI respectively, while bagging one wicket in each of the games. The T20Is did not bring a change in fortune for the 33-year-old as she went wicketless in the first two matches. She was also rested in the third T20I as a precautionary measure ahead of CWG.