Cape Town is the venue for Sunday’s Women’s T20 World Cup final between the history makers and hot favorites.
For the red-hot favorites, Australia, this is ordinary territory. They are in their seventh T20 final and 14th in all World Cups, also playing in seven Over-50 finals.
For history makers, South Africa is uncharted territory. The Proteas lost their first five World Cup semi-finals but achieved a sixth success by defeating England in Newlands on Friday afternoon in six rounds to become the first South African team, female or male, to reach the Cricket World Cup final.
Proteas captain Sune Luus said: “I think our aim was to inspire the nation and put women’s cricket in South Africa on the map. For women’s sport in general in South Africa to be elevated and put on the map as well.
“I think we are definitely doing our job in that respect. I hope the final can be another milestone. There are many good things that can come out of this tournament. If people are not taking women’s cricket seriously now, then there is no hope.
“We never thought that people in our country would stand in long lines to buy tickets to a women’s cricket match. It’s something special. I hope that will not be the case after the World Cup ends.”
We always knew we could make it to the final, it was just about breaking the semi-final curse. For us, it means staying calm and focusing on what we do best. We must trust our skills and abilities.
“Australia possibly the best women’s sports team that has ever existed”
Taking the final step will be a difficult challenge for South Africa. Of the 13 World Cup finals Australia has played in, it has only lost two.
Most often in these games they blow away their opponents. England were beaten by eight wickets in the 2018 T20 Final in Antigua, India by 85 runs in the 2020 MCG.
Nasser Hussain called Australia “probably the best women’s sports team that has ever existed”. Their stuffed trophy cabinet confirms his point. Seven Over-50 World Cup titles, five T20 triumphs.
But there were signs of fallibility against India in Thursday’s semi-final, and had it not been for Harmanpreet Kaur’s ill-fated escape after her stick got stuck on the field, India might as well have lined up next to South Africa in Newlands on Sunday.
India needed 41-of-34 balls with six goals in hand before Harmanpreet’s exit, but that goal, followed by Australia doing what Australia does, means the usual suspects are in the final.
This is a final they are supposed to win and they are expected to win handsomely. Only last weekend did they defeat South Africa by six goals in the group stage after limiting their opponents to 124-6, then softening that total with 21 balls to spare the back of undefeated Tahlia McGrath 57.
Pace and passionate home support
However, South Africa has artillery that can give Australia a game. Goal scorers and goal scorers in the XI, and certainly a raucous crowd cheering for the home team, who will perform as the proverbial 12th woman.
Everyone is under pressure, it’s the World Cup final, there are no guarantees. It’s about what happens during the day. We expect South Africa to come out and play at full strength. They also run on a wave of emotions. We are prepared for it.
The atmosphere will be sweltering and South Africa will be hoping bowler Shabnim Ismail will too, two days after she went over 80mph while bowling in England. If the Proteas are to stand a chance, they may need her and Marizanne Kapp to wreak havoc with the new ball.
Kapp caused some carnage in the side group meeting by dismissing Beth Mooney and Ellyse Perry on the cheap in the first seven overs as Australia fell to 40-3 in the chase.
The third element of South Africa’s first-choice seam attack is Ayabonga Khaka. She may not have Ismail’s speed or Kapp’s growl, but accuracy and pace changes are at the core of her game and she made a winning save against England with three goals in the 18th minute.
The Man of the Match, however, went to the Tazmin Brits, largely on her 68-of-55 rebounds, but also on four catches, one of which, a one-handed grab to remove Alice Capsey, was a scream.
With the bat, the Brits and opening partner Laura Wolvaardt took their time to get into the game, taking just nine points from their first three overs, but then stepped up and shared position 96.
Sky sports expert Tammy Beaumont said: “South African batsmen can step up their game for a big occasion. Yes, they may start slow, but if it’s a good goal, they can score all over the pitch. Australia was a bit stunned against India, so who knows?”
Sky Sport Cricket’s Nasser Hussain added: “I think South Africa has to face Australia. I think the draw will be important. In the finals, strike first, score on the board.”
Will the underdogs have their day?
It would be a historic moment if South Africa “stunned” Australia and won their first World Cup in Cape Town, something that seemed like a distant dream after they crashed and lost three rounds to Sri Lanka in the tournament’s opening game at same place.
This loss comes after the big decision to omit Dane van Niekerk for fitness reasons – the former captain was sacked after failing to complete the 2km run in the required time.
South Africa had a lot of question marks back then, but not so many now. He’s the only one, really.
Can they stop this Australian cricket?
They will be underdogs against a team that has a history of delivering goals in the biggest matches. Page featuring five of the top eight women’s T20I ranked hitters in McGrath (#1), Beth Mooney (#2), Lanning (#4), Ashleigh Gardner (#7) and Alyssa Healy (#8).
A site with varied bowling attack with swing, speed and spin. The team whose only loss in the last 22 completed T20 international matches against India ended in a Super Over.
But South Africa were the underdog against England and we know how that turned out…
Watch the U-20 Women’s World Cup final between Australia and South Africa live on Sky Sports Cricket on Sunday. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. before the first ball at 1:00 p.m.