By Wisden India staff in Sylhet
South Africa Women’s captain savours historic entry into ICC Women's World T20 semi-final, says being the underdog helped team overcome nerves
Du Preez was quite literally at a loss for words to describe the feeling, given that the journey over the years has had its fair share of challenges. "Thanks to the Lord for giving us this opportunity. All the glory needs to go to him," she said before sipping some water, pausing, and then continuing. "We’ve been working hard; we knew we had it in us but it never seemed to click in the crucial stages. I’m lost for words at the moment; the emotions are yet to sink in. All I can say is I’m honoured to be captain of this team."
As she began to relax, words started flowing and thoughts became clearer. Du Preez admitted there were a few nerves before the match, but believed the lack of expectations helped her side play fearlessly under pressure.
"Always, when you play a competitive game, there will be butterflies in the tummy," she said. "But we knew they were the side under pressure because people expect them to be in the semifinals, while we were the underdogs. We were flying under the radar. We decided to work extra hard and play freely as we had nothing to lose. I think the way we showed character out there was outstanding."
New Zealand was the superior side on form and experience, but South Africa handled the pressure better during the crunch moments. Du Preez led from the front with a half-century, but it was the work of the spinners that set the team on track to restrict a power-packed New Zealand batting unit to 114 for 8.Their spin trio of Dane van Niekerk, Sune Luus and Sunette Loubser conceded just 41 runs between them in nine overs, while also prising out three vital wickets.
It looked like a pre-planned strategy to choke New Zealand with spin, but du Preez revealed Chloe Tyron's injury, which the team thought would upset its plans, proved to be a blessing in disguise. Tyron, the left-arm seamer, injured herself while fielding, leaving du Preez with one bowler short.
"Actually going into the game, we thought we’ll use our seamers a bit more upfront,” she said. "Chloe Tyron was injured, so we knew one of the spinners will have to chip in while the two frontline spinners will need to do the job for us tonight. The way they put up their hands was delightful to watch; the way they controlled the game in the middle was superb."
The celebrations by the team were unique. While some expressed joy through tears, others revelled in the win with a small, mid-pitch jig followed by the team's victory song. "It’s a bit like the West Indies Women's team you know," laughed du Preez. "We came here and saw they had a motto of 'Moving in faith.' It’s something we all agree with. We didn’t want to use it upfront, but we’ve started thinking on those lines. Maybe if we qualify for the finals."