If there are two sides in world cricket that are almost as identically talented as they are on par, given the vulnerabilities and challenges, then they are the Windies women and the Proteas women, who lock horns in a few hours from now.
It’s the first time around, since the World T20 2020, that the two powerful sides, which are albeit equally unpredictable on certain days as well, meet one another in a full-fledged bilateral series.
Much of the focus for both teams, at the moment rests on the preparation for the 2022 women’s ODI World Cup, to be held in New Zealand.
The previous Proteas tour to West Indies was also hosted around the same time of the year as this time around: September of 2018.
Not only did the ODI series unfurl a draw, the fate of the T20Is too went down similar path.
One rained out contest in the 50-over format notwithstanding, the Stafanie Taylor side failed to secure a series win even in the T20I leg of the 2018 tour with the West Indies winning the opening 2 T20Is, followed by the Proteas winning the remainder of the two games after heavy Trinidadian rains washed out the fifth T20I.
Both Windies and Proteas have identical team composition
Fundamentally speaking, both Windies and Proteas bring to the table a nearly identical team make-up in terms of experienced campaigners supporting exuberant talents.
On both bat and ball, the two are almost on equal footing, though you’d think the Proteas are slightly ahead on the batting department.
Besides quality all-rounders in Luus, Kapp and Niekerk, all of whom are match-winners, with the presence of the vastly experienced Mignon du Preez, Laura Wolvaardt, and Lizelle Lee, the South African batting looks strong and will come hard at the Windies women.
On the other hand, the Windies Women are powered by the likes of Stafanie Taylor, among the world’s best all-rounders in the game, and batters like Deandra Dottin and Hayley Matthews, the batting largely revolves around the three.
Can the likes of Chedean Nation, Britney Cooper and Shemaine Campbell raise their game and become threatening game changers on their own.
That being said, the bowling attack the Proteas have consists of stump rattlers and timber disturbers, spinners and pacers of great repute filling up that aspect of the Proteas game that can easily undermine the West Indians.
The world’s fastest pacer, Shabim Ismail- 263 international wickets- will be challenging the Windies women along with the two other key names in a balanced line up: Ayabonga Khaka, 109 wickets and Marizanne Kapp, 191 wickets.
Spinners to shine in Caribbean
Moreover, there are spinners who offer both turn and guile and are miserly in their approach. Together, the returning Dane van Niekerk, clearly the best leggie in the game and Sune Luus, a rising threat for batsmen regardless of surface, constitute 342 wickets, of which the captain constitutes 194 wickets on her own.
And while the Windies women would want their batting hero of the 2018 series, Hayley Matthews to contribute vital runs, for she was on song given her ODI ton 117 (146, 3rd ODI) and 70 off 52 in 5th T20, the pressure will also fall on Taylor and Dottin to contribute.
This time, however, they’ll miss Merissa Aguilleira, their world class keeping batter who’s already called time on her career.
It’s about time that the talented trio of Chedean Nation, Britney Cooper and Chinelle Henry rise to the occasion and make some notable contributions.
Moreover, the new entrant to the national team, Cherry-Anne Fraser would like to leave an impact too. She's known for her penchant for fitness and her nagging accuracy and pace control.
Chloe Tryon and Mignon du Preez boost Proteas batting department
In all, the Proteas women, who also have the services of Chloe Tryon, among the biggest hitters in white-ball women’s cricket and the great Dane van Niekerk, it would boost the confidence of a side that’s yet to win a series in the past half a decade while visiting the Caribbean.
With Mignon du Preez having worked out a sensational turnaround in her T20I hitting abilities, the onus doesn’t only rest on the strong opening pair of Lee and Laura to get the team going. Can we see some gorgeous cover drives in Barbados and Trinidad from the blade of a marvelous youngster who’s known to hit one too many?
Meanwhile, the hosts will field great names like Anisa Mohammed, the Windes’ most successful spinner in the game’s history. Purely on form and their inconsistencies hard to ignore, Windies won’t start as hot favourites in the 5 ODI and 3-match T20I series.
Lastly, forget not that the Proteas staged a big upset in India, beating a more stronger opponent at its own home turf earlier this year.
Can this confidence work to disrupt the Windies this time around?
South Africa Squad:
Dane Van Niekerk (c), Sune Luus, Ayabonga Khaka, Shabnim Ismail, Laura Wolvaardt, Trisha Chetty, Sinalo Jafta, Tasmin Britz, Marizanne Kapp, Nondu Shangase, Lizelle Lee, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Mignon du Preez, Chloe Tryon, Nadine de Klerk, Lara Goodall, Tumi Sekhukhune, Masabata Klaas