World Cup folklore is littered with heroes emerging from the shadows to take centre stage. Ayabonga Khaka imprinted her name in those pages on Saturday.
South Africa: 207 all out (Kapp 42, Wolvaardt 41, Trisna 3/35)
Bangladesh: 175 all out (Akther 34, Sultana 29, Khaka 4/32, Klaas 2/36)
Result: South Africa won by 32 runs
Cape Town – World Cup folklore is littered with heroes emerging from the shadows to take centre stage. Ayabonga Khaka imprinted her name in those pages on Saturday.
The silent assassin of the Proteas Women’s team, who is often overlooked when the bright lights shine on the likes of new-ball pair Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail, will not be hiding behind the curtain anymore.
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Her brilliant haul of 4/32, which included her 100th ODI wicket, saved Suné Luus’ side from an embarrassing defeat to World Cup debutants Bangladesh.
For plenty of the contest it was the No.2 ranked side in the world that looked like the rookies rather than the Bangladeshis.
✅ 100th ODI wicket
✅ Player of the Match
✅ Only the fifth South African women's bowler to pick up 100+ ODI wickets
— ICC Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) March 5, 2022
South Africa’s batting effort was mediocre at best, with the lack of urgency in the top order especially creating plenty of angst lower down.
Although Lizelle Lee is expected to return to the opener’s slot for Friday’s clash against Pakistan which should boost the attacking impetus whilst in turn relieving the pressure on Laura Wolvaardt (41 off 52 balls), there remains genuine concerns around the critical No.3 position.
There were a few auditions held during the preceding West Indies series, but only Andries Steyn made any sort of an impression with a half-century in the final game of the series. Steyn, though, is only part of the non-travelling reserves in New Zealand and cannot be considered for selection to the starting XI.
Lara Goodall (12 off 43 balls) was the golden ticket holder at the University Oval, and if the Western Province left-hander is indeed given another run on Friday, she will drastically need to improve on her strike-rate that hovered on a lowly 27.90 throughout her innings.
South Africa simply cannot rely on its all-rounders Kapp (42 off 45) and Chloe Tryon (39 off 40) to play catch up in every game, especially with tougher contests against the likes of Australia, England and India that loom on the horizon.
Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that the Proteas boast one of the most threatening seam-bowling attacks at this World Cup. For them to be fully effective though, they are going to need their skipper Luus to embrace a greater attacking mindset.
Luus has led the Proteas with aplomb before and the team enjoy her more laidback style in comparison to the injured Dané van Niekerk. But this is tournament cricket where the game cannot be allowed to drift – even if just for a few overs.
With only 207 runs to defend after the paltry batting effort, the bowling unit needed their skipper to take control and set the type of attacking fields that could immediately transfer the pressure.
Bangladesh’s openers Shamima Sultana and Sharmin Akhter, who to their credit displayed great courage and character, do not encounter Ismail’s speed or Kapp’s swing regularly and would undoubtedly have been daunted at the prospect.
But instead of being bombarded with a ring of fielders behind the wicket, they were allowed to settle in as numerous edges flew through the vacant third slip region.
Sultana (27) and Sharmin Akhter (34) benefitted from South Africa’s cautious opening approach to share a 69-run opening stand that would have given their dressing room real belief that they could pull off the second heist of the tournament following hosts New Zealand’s shock defeat to West Indies on Friday.
But that’s when Kaka turned the game on its head with three wickets in the space of two overs, including sending Akhter and Murshida Khatun (0) back to the pavilion within two balls of each other.
Although Rumana Ahmed (21), Bangladesh skipper Nigar Sultana (29) and Ritu Moni (27) tried valiantly lower down the order, South Africa ultimately had too much experience to let this slip through their grasp and can now start focusing on the bigger challenges that lay ahead.