“We spoke a lot about our planning and preparation and it’s nice when that comes together”
Almost sitting back like The A Team’s Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith while puffing away on a big Cuban cigar, Proteas women’s captain Dané van Niekerk certainly loves it when “a plan comes together”.
The Proteas were on point in everything they set out to do on Sunday at the Waca, leading to a historic six-wicket victory over England in their ICC T20 World Cup opening match.
Plenty had been made about the preparation in the build-up, and the evidence was clear in Perth. South Africa had detailed plans for each England batsman, with fielders placed in strategic positions like the unique wide long-off for captain Heather Knight.
This opened up the straight boundary, only for Knight to strike it too close to Shabnim Ismail who took a splendid running catch on the long-on fence.
Equally, the promotion of both Van Niekerk – to open – and Marizanne Kapp at No 3 also had the desired effect. The all-rounders added 84 runs for the second wicket which set up South Africa’s eventual victory.
“We spoke a lot about our planning and preparation and it’s nice when that comes together,” Proteas captain Van Niekerk said.
The skipper played a big part in ensuring everything went according to script by top-scoring with 46 off 51 balls and also claiming 2/20. However, it was the execution of the entire bowling unit that restricted England to just 123/8.
Bar possibly the first over from Nonkululeko Mlaba that saw the left-arm spinner deliver a juicy full toss and a further half-volley that was despatched by Amy Jones, the Proteas’ discipline on the night was mightily impressive.
The bowlers conceded just three wides and particularly the pace trio of Kapp, Ismail and Ayabongha Khaka hit their lines and lengths with precision.
“I have to give credit to our bowlers – Kapp, Khaka and Ismail – we couldn’t have done it without them.
“It was a team performance. I just try and hit the stumps as much as possible and tried to stick to my game plan,” the skipper said.
South Africa have a few days to absorb the magnitude of the victory – it was the first time the Proteas defeated England at a World Cup – before their next clash against Thailand in Canberra on Friday.
The major challenge for Van Niekerk and the Proteas management this week will be to ensure the team moves on from Perth and does not dwell on it for too long.
Equally, there is a need to ensure complacency does not creep into their game against the World T20 débutantes.
Thailand may be rookies on the highest stage, but they are vastly experienced with the Asian side have played the most T20 Internationals over the past year.