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‘We just lost our way with the bat’ says Laura Wolvaardt after Proteas lose ODI series to Australia

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Against all odds, captain Laura Wolvaardt and the senior players led the side to two historic victories – one in the T20I series and one in the ODIs.

Laura Wolvaardt, captain of of South Africa, plays a shot during the 3rd ODI between Australia Women and South Africa Women at North Sydney Oval in Sydney, Australia, 10 February 2024. Picture: EPA, DAN HIMBRECHTS

When the Proteas Women team left for Australia for the multi-format tour last month, there were not a lot of expectations despite the side’s general improvement across all three-formats in recent years.

After all, Australia had never lost a single game to South Africa before the tour began.

Against all odds, captain Laura Wolvaardt and the senior players led the side to two historic victories – one in the T20I series and one in the ODIs.

Having gotten rid of the monkey that was on their backs for a long time, the Proteas grew in confidence, and the team believed they were closing the gap between themselves and the Australians, who have been a dominant force in women’s cricket for decades.

ALSO READ: Australia triumphs in rain-affected ODI to clinch series against Proteas

High in confidence, Wolvaardt marshalled her troops to the North Sydney Oval on Saturday with the series level at 1-1, looking to win a series against Australia for the first time.

However, Australia had one more trick up their sleeve as they humbled the visitors and took the series 2-1.

The nature of the loss shut down all the noise that was brewing about Australia’s “dip” in form and standards, having had defeats against South Africa and India this year.

When it mattered most, Beth Mooney (82 off 91 balls, 10×4), captain Alyssa Healy (60 off 73, 9×4, 1×6) and Tahlia McGrath (44 off 35, 7×4) helped Australia to 277/9 in the third ODI to set up a thumping 110-run victory.

With rain also affecting their innings, South Africa were dismissed for 127, with only Tazmin Brits (31) and Suné Luus (34) going past 30.

Masabata Klaas was the leading bowler for the Proteas Women, producing career-best figures of 4/56 in nine overs.

“Winning the second (match) was really awesome. Even today’s game as well, I think we had a decent first half with the ball. Restricting them to 270-odd at the North Sydney Oval is not always an easy feat – I think it’s a very high-scoring ground normally,” Wolvaardt told the media afterwards.

“We bowled pretty good lengths, and the fielding was decent as well … We just lost our way with the bat.”

Having had a good dig with the bat, McGrath turned up with the ball too as she dismissed South Africa’s top-three batters, Wolvaardt (three), Anneke Bosch (four) and Marizanne Kapp (zero), and earned the Player-of-the-Match award with 3/23 in four overs.

Most importantly, McGrath’s bowling effort ensured that the in-form middle-order batter Kapp walked in to bat with no foundation to build on, and in turn transferred all the pressure on the experienced all-rounder.

Wolvaardt admitted that top-order runs were the difference between the two teams in the series as Australia’s Healy and Mooney enjoyed a successful time with the bat at the top of the order.

“That’s what we’ve lacked in all three games: It’s someone in that top three really batting through and batting long. I think Beth (Mooney) had done that very well and showed that really well today, just absorbing the pressure early on,” the SA skipper said.

“I think it was tough when she came in. (The ball) was moving around quite a bit, but she was able to stick it through.

“That’s something that our top-four haven’t been able to do in this series.”

@imongamagcwabe

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