By Wisden India staff in Sylhet
New Zealand Women’s captain praises Mignon du Preez and South Africa Women for fighting well in must-win game
Understandably, Suzie Bates, the captain, looked emotionally drained. "I’m pretty gutted," began Bates. "I think to beat Australia in the first game and then post two comprehensive wins and go out of the tournament in such a close game is heartbreaking. But that is sport and full credit to South Africa because they were outstanding.
"I thought we were tentative as well. There will be a lot of people taking a hard look at themselves tonight but we can be proud of the way we played in the tournament."
In its first three matches, New Zealand posted totals of 128, 171 and 167. But in a virtual quarterfinal, the batting fell apart as it managed only 114 for 8. Bates, who had blasted her way to an unbeaten 94 in the previous match against Ireland Women, looked unusually subdued at the start, as New Zealand was choked by spin. In hindsight, Bates felt 130-plus wouldn't have been an easy total to chase down.
"The wicket was a touch slower. It took a bit of turn but it was slow turn," she assessed. "I didn’t quite have my timing initially. I also thought we didn’t attack their spinners enough early on. They did bowl slow, tossed it up and we didn’t quite get to the pitch of the ball and just let them bowl there. Sophie (Devine) batted really well, it’s just a shame we were 10-15 short on a wicket like that."
With New Zealand bossing its way to victories in its first three outings, Bates felt the pressure of suddenly facing a knockout game got to the team.
"I think that was probably in hindsight the reason why we played the way we did today," she said, when asked if the team was caught off guard. "I think we thought after beating Australia, we put ourselves in a good position. Suddenly we realised we’d miss out if we lost, perhaps that was why we were tentative. We knew how much was riding on the game. South Africa took it to us and we didn’t execute our plans well."
As much as she was disappointed by the loss, Bates was also magnanimous in her appreciation for Mignon du Preez, her opposite number, who steered South Africa's chase with a 47-ball 51. "She was outstanding," said Bates. "For her to bat like that as a captain and put her team in that position was fantastic; all credit to her. I hope South Africa go on to upset a few other teams because they've improved quite a lot over the last few years."
This is the first time New Zealand has failed to make it to the semifinals of the Women’s World T20. While Bates felt there would be a lot of reflection on what went wrong, she also had words of appreciation for the way her side gelled together as a team.
"It’s going to be a challenging couple of days for this group," she said. "It’s going to be pretty hard, but I’m sure the girls love playing for New Zealand. Every game means a lot, so I don’t think it should be too hard to get behind each other and give one more effort.
"As well as being disappointed, it is sport and it is going to be difficult in the next couple of days. If we reflect individually, we can be proud. Morna Nielsen bowled well all tournament, Frankie Mackay and Sophie Devine did well. We just have to accept that the other teams came out and played better when it mattered."