Lizelle Lee: Name that instilled fear in minds of bowlers

Player of the Match Lizelle Lee of South Africa poses with her champagne © Getty Images

As the game has evolved rapidly over the past decade, ball-striking has taken on a whole new meaning in the women’s game. A name that arguably lies at the helm of that list of dangerous hitters is that of South Africa’s very own fireball, Lizelle Lee.

Her marauding bat ripped many bowling attacks to shreds and instilled a sense of fear in the minds and hearts of bowlers across oppositions. Lee was one of a kind, she commanded respect from bowlers across disciplines and her unrelenting approach to batting had people take notice of her strokeplay without blinking an eye.

Here are her most memorable knocks in white-ball cricket:

132* vs India in Lucknow – March 12, 2021

Having begun the five-match ODI series with a convincing eight-wicket win, the visitors, South Africa, were looking fairly confident but hosts India registered a resounding nine-wicket-win in the second ODI to come back with a bang and level the series.

With the five-match ODI series evenly poised at 1-1 after the first two matches, the third ODI was going to be a fascinating contest but a scintillating century from Lee made the affair fairly lopsided in favour of the visitors.

Chasing a revised target of 218 runs, Lee was quick to judge the pace of the wicket and the length of the deliveries bowled to her. She dealt severely with anything that was either fuller in length or short from the two Indian seamers: Jhulan Goswami and Mansi Joshi. The introduction of spinners and the fall of wickets at the other end didn’t faze her at all. 

She slog-swept the spinners whenever they pitched it up in her radar and also scored boundaries against the turn off Deepti Sharma’s bowling both behind and in front of square. She was given a reprieve in the 30th over as Goswami failed to grab a miscued slog-sweep and capitalised fully afterwards.

Lee brought her ton up in style as she launched Harmanpreet Kaur down the ground for a maximum on the third delivery of the 35th over. Despite losing two senior players in Mignon du Preez and Marizanne Kapp, she kept South Africa in the hunt by virtue of her attacking strokeplay. When rain halted play in the 47th over, the Proteas were ahead by six runs and it was Lee’s blitzkrieg that saw them home with six wickets to spare.

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117 vs England in Hove – June 12, 2018 

Chasing a monumental 332 to win, South Africa needed someone to take ownership right from the outset and Lee put up her hand once again. She was quick to apply herself on a wicket that was an absolute belter. 

Her characteristic power game was on display as she hammered the England bowlers to all corners of the ground. Lee dismissed everything from her presence and was unforgiving of anything in her arc and specifically chose the area from behind square in the leg-side to long on for putting the English attack away.

Her domineering knock kept the visitors in the hunt right till the 33rd over and it took a sharp catch by Danni Wyatt to draw curtains on her breathtaking knock. Although South Africa, in the end, went down by 69 runs, it was Lee’s knock that saved them from a humiliating loss.

102 vs Australia in Sydney – November 23, 2016

When South Africa skipper Dané van Niekerk chose to bat in the third ODI at the North Sydney Oval in Sydney, she expected her batters to get their eyes in and make the most of the opportunity but it wasn’t to be. Barring Lee, none of the other batters could withstand the impetus of a rampaging Australian bowling attack. 

Lee’s knock was full of her characteristic hits down the ground, especially against the Aussie spinners Kristen Beams and Grace Harris. The highlights of her knock were her valiance to go aerial down the ground despite having several boundary riders patrolling the area and fighting fire with fire.

The Aussie bowlers tried their hearts out to subdue the dasher but she continued to advance in an unfettered way and smashed seven sixes and six fours. She alone scored 58.95% of South Africa’s total, a record, and helped them post 173 at the end. 

101 vs Thailand in Canberra (ICC World T20), February 28, 2020

Having humbled England by six wickets in their tournament opener, the Proteas were taking on a comparatively weak opposition in Thailand. 

After electing to bat first, van Niekerk’s side didn’t require to put up an overwhelming total on the board to defeat their opponents but Lee had different ideas. 

She stuck to her strengths against a spin-heavy Thailand bowling attack and biffed the ball as hard as possible. The notable thing about her knock was the fact that she also timed balls and threaded the gap on the off-side on numerous occasions and also employed deft touches to pick up fours. Her first and only T20I century saw the Proteas post a humongous 195 runs on the board and they eventually cruised past Thailand by 113 runs. Her ton helped her become only the second South African with a T20I century.

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68 vs England in Taunton – Tri-Nation T20I series 2018

In pursuit of a stiff target of 161 runs, South Africa got off to a horrible start as they lost Laura Wolvaardt with just six runs on the board. 

What stood out about her 68-run-innings was how effortlessly she was able to deposit the English bowlers over the mid-wicket fence. She merely took 29 balls to score her half-century, another record, and reached there in a dashing manner as she clobbered Nat Sciver over mid-wicket for a maximum. 

When her blistering knock, that included six sixes and four boundaries ended, South Africa just needed 51 runs to win off 47 balls (a tad over run-a-ball). It was her jaw-dropping strike rate of 183.78 that helped the Proteas to control the asking rate throughout the chase and allowed the other batters in her camp to finish the proceedings with three deliveries to spare.