World Cup Preview: Will Sune Luus’ South Africa break their semi-final hoodoo?

South Africa © Getty Images

Having played in six 50 over World Cups thus far, South Africa are still waiting to get their hands on the elusive silverware. The Sune Luus- led side comprises some veterans that have already proven their mettle and also has numerous young guns who are raring to go.

While they will certainly miss their regular skipper Dane van Niekerk, who has been ruled out of the tournament due to an ankle injury, there are plenty of experienced players who can row their boat to the finishing line. With a total of 123 rating points, the team is ranked second in the ICC ODI rankings, which is a testimony to their recent red-hot form.

How they made it?

Having finished third in the ICC Women’s Championship with 25 points, South Africa smoothly qualified for the World Cup. They won ten out of their 21 games during the 2017-2020 cycle, lost six, and four of their matches yielded no result.

What have they done in the past?

They made their first appearance in the sixth edition of the event, which was played in India and their campaign ended with a loss to India in the third quarterfinal. Since then, they have featured in all of the editions and even hosted the tournament in 2005. They lost to the defending champions England in a nail-biting semi-final by just two wickets in the last (2017) edition.

Best World Cup finish

Having contested in two semi-finals (2000, 2017) till now, South Africa haven’t managed to advance to the final yet. They were humbled by Australia in 2000 as they lost by nine wickets. And had to wait for 17 long years to secure another semi-final berth, only to suffer yet another heartbreak at the hands of hosts England.

Squad

Sune Luus (c), Laura Wolvaardt, Tazmin Brits, Lara Goodall, Mignon du Preez, Marizanne Kapp, Chloe Tryon, Sinalo Jafta (wk), Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Masabata Klaas, Lizelle Lee, Tumi Sekhukhune, Trisha Chetty (wk) 

Likely playing XI

Sune Luus (c), Lara Goodall, Laura Wolvaardt, Tazmin Brits, Mignon du Preez, Marizanne Kapp, Trisha Chetty (wk), Chloe Tryon, Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka, Tumi Sekhukhune

Key players

Marizanne Kapp

One of the most experienced players in the squad, Marizanne Kapp is South Africa’s premier all rounder leading into the World Cup. But her numbers do not do justice to the impact she has had so far, not only on South African cricket but also on world cricket. 

The 32-year old veteran has played 118 matches in her ODI career and aggregated over 2000 runs. She has also bagged 134 wickets at an impressive average of 23.88 and hence can turn the tide in favour of her side if required. Being one of the very few players in world cricket who can change the momentum of the game both with the bat and ball, she will be expected to guide the side to a title finish this time.

Lizelle Lee

Having finished as the leading run-getter in ODIs in 2021, Lizelle Lee was in the form of her life and looked unstoppable throughout the year. She amassed 632 runs in 11 matches at a jaw-dropping average of 90.28, including one century and five half-centuries in 2021. Her phenomenal run throughout the entirety of 2021 helped her bag the ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year 2021.

Lee has been providing the Proteas with blistering starts up front, which makes the role of the middle-order easier. Although she didn’t feature in the recently culminated series against West Indies at home, it won’t take much time for her to get back into her groove.

X factor

Well, the current South Africa side has plenty of match-winners in their squad but one name that has emerged as the most stand out amongst them is their skipper Sune Luus.

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Having made her ODI debut against Bangladesh in September 2012, Luus has been remarkable with the ball ever since. She bagged 37 wickets in 2016 and became the joint highest wicket-taker in a calendar year, along with Anisa Mohammed. Her ability to deceive batters with drift and the variations in pace and flight is exemplary. And can trouble any batting order on a given day.

Although her overall batting numbers do not do justice to her potential, this World Cup could turn out to be a quantum leap for Luus, the batter.

Prediction

Semi-final berth on cards

The Proteas have won their last five ODI series and looked domineering in all of them. They first hammered New Zealand in New Zealand, trounced Pakistan at home, registered a resounding win against India in India, and defeated the West Indies both in the Caribbean and at home recently. The fact that they registered a clean sweep in New Zealand, who are hosting the tournament, as they vanquished the White Ferns in a three-match ODI series in 2019-20 will be a massive psychological boost for them. That, along with their blazing form, could help them register a semi-final berth again.