Anneke Bosch: Making hay while the sun shines in Taunton
When Day one of the ongoing Taunton Test culminated with the scorecard reading South Africa 284 all out in 91.4 overs, there was a sense of tranquility in the South African dressing room. But it wasn’t the case when they were tottering at 89 for the loss of five wickets inside 31 overs of play.
With every wicket that tumbled in the pre-lunch session, faces in the South African camp became more perturbed and had furrows on their foreheads.
South Africa were playing a Test match after a gap of almost eight years and all the buzz and enthusiasm that prevailed in the camp ahead of the Taunton Test seemed to be translating into that of anxiousness. And when Kate Cross got the better of the Proteas skipper, Suné Luus, the angst in the South African dressing room heightened – and the feeling of getting folded early grew manifold.
The odds were looking against the Proteas and all the talk about the dawn of a new era in English cricket in the lead-up to the game began reverberating.
But at the core of the sport lies the element of unpredictability and it is one of the prime reasons why it has the kind of fandom it wields.
It is that element of unpredictability that can put a team riding the crest of a wave down at the trough – something that the hosts eventually went on to experience.
South Africa’s dwindling ship had a new captain in charge of the rudder, a war horse old enough in the circuit but only featuring in her second Test – Marizanne Kapp.
Kapp not only weathered the storm and steadied the ship with her tactical brilliance but also put South Africa on top by the end of the day’s play.
When play resumed on day two, the visitors didn’t bother looking beyond their saviour from day one as Luus tossed a glossy Dukes to Kapp in quest of early breakthroughs.
Kapp bowled in the right areas, and got plenty of movement too but didn’t have enough venom to cause severe issues to the duo of Emma Lamb and Tammy Beaumont. Nadine de Klerk, who shared the new cherry with Kapp also looked far from taking a wicket in her opening burst.
And when Kapp trudged alongside the physio after completing her sixth over, South Africa looked in dire straits again and England were bolstered.
In dire need of a breakthrough, Luus handed the ball to Anneke Bosch and the allrounder did what was looking like an insurmountable task.
She steamed in from ball one and was prepared to give her all but her initial few deliveries were off the radar and were handled easily by the English pair.
As a player, the urge to make a mark at times becomes so intense that it makes you fickle-minded and fuelled by the desire to do well, you let go of persistence.
But Bosch seems to be cut from a different cloth. She reanalysed her strategy and decided to pitch it up there and it bore fruit eventually.
She bowled a fuller delivery on the fourth ball of the 19th over but erred in line slightly as Beaumont got it right under her eyes and unleashed a drive that whizzed past mid-off for a boundary.
But the boundary didn’t deter the 28-year-old from her quest. She didn’t drag her length back but rather just made a subtle change in the line (full and on middle and leg) and outdid Beaumont.
Her next scalp came on a delivery of much higher quality. She bowled another full delivery that induced a drive from Lamb but this one came back in sharply to splay her stumps. Had the delivery held its line then Lamb would have been able to caress it down the ground but the movement from the surface was too good for Lamb’s liking.
Bosch didn’t only stop there. She picked her third-wicket as she took down England’s dasher in Sophia Dunkley. Since her arrival at the crease, Dunkley was willing to unleash her drives and Bosch took notice of that.
Third delivery of the 41st over – Bosch outclassed Dunkley and had the Proteas dictating terms to the hosts. She delivered an outswinger within Dunkley’s drivable arc and had her flash at it. The ball took the outside half of Dunkley’s willow and was safely pouched by Andrie Steyn at first slip.
The two deliveries that got Lamb and Dunkley were in complete contrast to each other but were delivered from the same section of the bowling crease and that showed Bosch’s efficacy with the ball.
But Bosch’s impact on the game was not only limited to her success with the ball on day two, she also played a pivotal role with the bat in hand but it got eclipsed by Kapp’s record-breaking innings on day one at Taunton and hence couldn’t get the limelight it deserved.
Bosch scored 30 runs and was involved in a valuable 72-run stand that set the foundation of South Africa’s first innings total.
She batted with sheer aplomb and didn’t throw caution to the wind even once. Although Bosch missed out on an invaluable opportunity to make it big in the first innings and fell prey to a soft dismissal, the confidence of her resolute knock will certainly hold her in good stead for the second innings in Taunton.