“We are starting to click together and performances are coming from every player,” Wolvaardt says
Captain Suné Luus praised South Africa’s new-found fearless style of play, which she credited with their double success in India. South Africa won the ODIs 4-1 and sealed the T20I rubber with a game to play, to pick up a first-ever T20I series win over India.
“Our confidence levels are where we want them to be. The girls are backing themselves and playing fearless cricket and in T20s, that’s what you want,” Luus said at the post-match presentation.
Not only did South Africa claim the T20I trophy, but they pulled off their third-highest chase in the second match, which was also among their most nerve-wracking. They needed 19 runs off the last 10 balls, nine off the final over and six off the last two balls, and Laura Wolvaardt was at the crease to ensure they got them all. She faced all but two deliveries in the 20th over, including the no-ball from Arundhati Reddy that she took two runs off on what would have been the penultimate delivery of the match, and said that eased the mounting pressure.
“A couple of balls before that then there was a full toss which was almost a no-ball and I didn’t hit it very well. I thought to myself, ‘did I just not score off a full toss?’,” Wolvaardt said, referring to the third ball of the final over that went for one. “But then when the [second] full toss came, and we had an extra ball, we didn’t need a boundary anymore. For the last ball, we needed one and I said to Nadine (de Klerk) that whatever happens, I am just going to try and get some bat on it. I’m glad it worked out.”
South Africa’s victory came with an inside-edge off the last ball, avoiding a Super Over, though Wolvaardt admitted things didn’t need to get that close. “I didn’t start my innings as quickly as I would have liked so I put some pressure on myself, but I knew with a fast outfield, we were in with a chance if we took it deep. I’m glad I was there at the end to do it,” she said.
Wolvaardt scored two runs off the first six balls she faced, which included a dropped chance, but with Lizelle Lee on the other end, South Africa were mostly able to keep pace with the required run rate. When Lee and then Mignon du Preez were dismissed, it was up to Wolvaardt and de Klerk to see South Africa home. That they did sends a strong message about the depth in the South African squad.
“It’s so good for our future,” Luus said. “We know that if on the day we can’t play Marizanne Kapp, Shabnim Ismail or Lizelle Lee, there are players coming in and we back them, they back themselves.”
South Africa won this T20I series without Kapp, who was rested for the past two matches, and without regular captain Dane van Niekerk and allrounder Chloe Tryon, who are recovering from lower-back injuries. They were also without Luus for two of the ODIs, when she picked up an illness, and Wolvaardt took over the captaincy. In doing so, she also experienced the improvement in the quality of players beyond South Africa’s big names.
“In the past, that was one of the gaps between us and the big nations – if we had Dane missing the tour, we would do badly,” Wolvaardt said. “Now there is some healthy competition going forward and we are raising the bar for each other. This is also the first time in a long time we are all feeling it (confidence) together. We are starting to click together and performances are coming from every player. If we can ride this wave, that would be awesome.”
They have one more opportunity to do that on this strip, with the final match in the series to be played on Tuesday. “There’s a chance for us to make it 3-0 and that will be even bigger than a series win,” Luus said.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent