England vs South Africa: Suné Luus’ side in quest to change history

Heather Knight (L) and Suné Luus (R) © Getty Images

The one-off Test between hosts England and South Africa left us craving for more. The grit that was shown by players from both sides despite frequent rain interruptions was exemplary and had the spectators praying to the weather Gods for mercy till the umpires made the final decision and the Test ended in a stalemate. 

The Taunton Test was merely a curtain-raiser to what promises to be an intriguing arm-wrestle between the hosts and the tourists in the form of a three-match ODI series despite it not being a part of the ICC Women’s Championship Cycle 2022-25.

What’s at stake?

The hosts haven’t lost a single series against the Proteas both at home and in South Africa. Hence, Heather Knight’s side will move heaven and earth to keep that record intact.

In addition, this three-match ODI series against the Proteas will kickstart the new World Cup cycle (2022-25) for England. They haven’t played a single ODI game since suffering the agonizing loss against Ashes rivals Australia in the 50-over World Cup Final at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch. So, the hosts will look to start resoundingly.

On the other hand, the tourists will firstly be driven to improve their ‘appalling’ record. They had clean-swept Ireland recently in a three-match ODI series to begin their Championship Cycle on the best note possible. Therefore, they have the winning momentum on their side and it might help them overcome the steep challenge ahead of them in the form of the English side.

Suné Luus’ side lost both warm-up games against England A. They lost the T20 Warm-up match by 15 runs on July 4 and the 50-over affair by seven wickets on July 9. Although Lizelle Lee’s unforeseen retirement has put additional responsibility on the young South African batting order, their recent performances will hold them in good stead going into the ODI series. 

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

Both Andrie Steyn (119) and Lara Goodall (143) averaged in hundreds during the ODI series in Ireland. Luus only had one opportunity to bat in that series, and she scored a match-winning 93 in that game. 

Although South Africa’s batting mainstay, Laura Wolvaardt, averaged 41.33 in the Ireland series (which is below the standard that the 23-year-old has set for herself), she put up scores of 72 and 34 in the two Warm-up fixtures and looked in control during both knocks.

Marizanne Kapp, who scored a brilliant ton in the Taunton Test, also scored an unbeaten run-a-ball half-century in the ODI Warm-up fixture and the game saw the hard-hitting Chloe Tryon score 43 runs off just 27 balls (including four fours and two sixes).

So, their batting is not a matter of concern, it is their bowling that ails them. They missed their spearhead Shabnim Ismail badly in the one-off Test as England racked up a mammoth total of 417 on the board. Ismail didn’t play in any of the Warm-up fixtures so if she doesn’t feature in the ODI series then Luus’ side will be under the pump. 

None of the South African bowlers looked potent in the Warm-up games and it was a major reason why they ended up on the losing side.

If your bowling attack fails to do well against a ‘B’ team, then you are bound to be worried and hence Luus won’t be a happy captain from that perspective. The Taunton Test and the Warm-up games showcased how heavily the Proteas rely on Ismail and the England team management will be cognizant of the same.

On the contrary, England have plenty of young faces in their bowling attack that are brimming with confidence on the back of a good outing in the Taunton Test and above all, they’ll also have the services of their old warhorse, Katherine Brunt.

England’s batting also looks formidable and has both Knight and Nat Sciver in the middle order who are capable of winning games on their own. Hence the hosts will head into the series as favourites and the visitors will have to play some quality cricket to get the result in their favour.

Players to watch out for:

Natalie Sciver: The 29-year-old looks in imperious form with the bat and hence will be itching for the series to get underway. In the last few years, Sciver has emerged as one of England’s most reliable batters in the middle order and is acting as their batting mainstay. 

She scored an unbeaten 169 in the Taunton Test and had an amazing World Cup campaign with the bat, where she averaged a staggering 72.66. In addition to her batting ability, she also has a safe pair of hands that were on display in the Taunton Test. She can provide the side with crucial breakthroughs as and when needed so the visitors will be wary of her big time.

Marizanne Kapp: Kapp will be one of the key players heading into the ODI series based on her recent form with the bat. Her stupendous knock of 150 held the fort for the visitors in the first innings of the Taunton Test and she backed it up with yet another impressive batting display in the second innings.

With her penetrative bowling ability, Kapp brings a phenomenal allround game to the table and Luus’ side will hope that she takes charge in both the departments.

What they said:

“South Africa showed how good they are in the big tournaments. We have to bring our A-Game against them.”

– Danielle Wyatt on the danger South Africa pose

“I am very impressed with the youngsters. Lara Goodall, Andrie Steyn have done great for us. Losing a couple of players, we have a lot of spot openings for young players. I am really excited for them.”

–  Suné Luus on youngsters and the opportunities that lie ahead of them

Numbers:

Head to head: Played 40 matches, England 30 – 9 South Africa; No Result

Sophie Ecclestone’s 6/36 are the best bowling figures ever recorded in England and South Africa’s ODI history. Her sparkling spell had led to South Africa’s exit from the World Cup 2022 at the semi-final stage.

Predicted XI:

England: Tammy Beaumont, Emma Lamb, Heather Knight (c), Natalie Sciver, Danielle Wyatt, Amy Jones (wk), Sophia Dunkley, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Kate Cross, Lauren Bell

South Africa: Laura Wolvaardt, Andrie Steyn, Lara Goodall, Suné Luus (c), Marizanne Kapp, Chloe Tryon, Anneke Bosch, Trisha Chetty (wk), Nadine de Klerk, Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka