Day 2 – Sunday (June 25)
Pakistan Women v South Africa Women in Leicester.
Match in focus
In the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier in Colombo, Pakistan Women was the last to book its berth for the ICC Women’s World Cup, its entry dependent on how other matches went. The parallel with what the men’s team did for the Champions Trophy is inescapable, and the men went on to lift the trophy against all odds. Sana Mir, the women’s captain, spoke of how Sarfraz Ahmed’s side had inspired the entire country, and the women will want to carry that forward.
Interestingly, the men started their turnaround against South Africa, and the women’s first opponent is South Africa Women. So while Mir’s girls will draw inspiration from the men’s match, understandably enough, Dane van Niekerk has said her team wants to distance itself from the men’s and create its own culture and identity.
South Africa has made a strong impression since the start of the Women’s Championship in 2014, especially the way it played to beat India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh Women in Asian conditions. After that, the team made it to the final of the Qualifier. Had Harmanpreet Kaur not been able to score eight off the last two balls to take India home with a wicket in hand, South Africa would have won the title.
South Africa's plan has been pretty straightforward. The opening pair of Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt have the mandate to attack in the first Power Play while the middle-order bats deep. The bowling department is headed by the pace bowling duo of Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp.
The team played a perfect game against Pakistan in the Qualifiers. Opting to bat first, South Africa got off to a flying start before Mignon du Preez (40), Kapp (38), Chloe Tyron (79) and van Niekerk (30) took the team to 258 for 9. Pakistan could never get off the blocks as South Africa bowled tight to restrict the team to 195 for 6. South Africa will carry good memories from that game, and from its tour of United Arab Emirates in 2015 too, where Sune Luus took 5 for 20 in one innings.
Pakistan, on the other hand, has beaten South Africa just twice in 17 encounters, but that’s in the past. The team chased down 247 in the warm-up game against Windies Women. Bismah Maroof (75) and Nain Abidi (81 not out) had a stand of 141 runs for the fourth wicket as Pakistan reached its target in 47.4 overs with five wickets in hand.
This is the first time both teams will play against each other in England, and both would like to believe that they hold the edge. Pakistan toured England last year, while South Africa is familiar with these conditions through the Women’s Super League.
All South African players are fit, meaning van Niekerk will return to the team after missing out on the quadrangular series at home which ended with a loss to India in the final. Niekerk is one of the seven players with 1000 runs and 100 wickets in Women’s ODIs, and lends balance to the squad.
Pakistan too have all its players available, and a lot will depend on how the openers go in the Power Play overs. A good start will help the team put up a good total.
Player in focus
Lizelle Lee: No one hits the ball as hard as Lee in women’s cricket right now. An admirer of Lance Klusener who looks like Richard Levi, she has hit the most number of sixes in ODIs in the last three years. She has not had good outings building up to the World Cup, but, as she showed during the Qualifier, she is one good hit away from finding form.
Nashra Sandhu: Still a teenager, the legspinner was the highest wicket-taker in the Qualifier. Sandhu’s height allows her to derive more bounce off the surface, something that would be crucial on tracks in England.
What they said
Dane van Niekerk: The girls have got used to the conditions. Everyone is fit and raring to go. Nerves creeping in, but I guess that’s natural. Hopefully, we can contain the nerves and do what we do the best. I had a look (at the pitch). It has a bit of grass, and I am happy because of our fast bowlers. But at the end of the day, you have to find your first and final lengths. We want momentum going into a tournament, and we got that (with the win against Windies in the warm-up). You don’t ever underestimate Pakistan, especially in tournaments like these. They are feisty and skillful. We just want to concentrate on what we do well, we don’t want to focus on the opposition too much.
Sana Mir: We have got two weeks of preparation and are confident with the way the team has shaped up. We have had good chases against Loughborough and Windies, so that boosted our confidence. South Africa are a quality side, and we need to play good cricket to beat them. That’s our aim in the first match. Everyone is fit for tomorrow’s game, and we are really excited to step on the ground and play our first match of the World Cup.
Number in focus
100 – Mignon du Preez is one away from becoming the first South African to play in 100 ODIs. She has so far scored 2538 runs in 99 games since making her debut in 2007. Trisha Chetty, with 2302 runs, is the only other South African batter with 2000 or more runs.
South Africa: Dane van Niekerk (capt), Trisha Chetty (wk), Moseline Daniels, Marizanne Kapp, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Shabnim Ismail, Nadine de Klerk, Lizelle Lee, Sune Luus, Raisibe Ntozhake, Mignon du Preez, Andrie Steyn, Chloe Tryon, Laura Wolvaardt.
Pakistan: Sana Mir (capt), Ayesha Zafar, Bibi Nahida, Marina Iqbal, Bismah Maroof, Javeria Khan, Syeda Nain Fatima Abidi, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Kainat Imtiaz, Asmavia Iqbal, Diana Baig, Waheeda Akhtar, Nashra Sandhu, Ghulam Fatima, Sadia Yousuf.