This has to be the one.
South Africans say it every time a major tournament rolls around and, usually, they believe it. This time more so than in the recent past. While the men’s team’s form spiraled downwards over much of the last two years, the women’s team has been consistently good and much of the talk in local traps is that they will bring home the World Cup, back-to-back reversals in the warm- oops notwithstanding.
After reaching the semi-finals in 2017, they identified the 2021 (now 2022) World Cup as theirs to win, knowing their core group of players would have matured and backing the plans of long-serving coach Hilton Moreeng. Everything was going as expected, including automatic qualification for the World Cup by beating New Zealand in New Zealand, until Dane van Niekerk slipped on the pool deck in her new home and was ruled out of the tournament with a broken ankle.
South Africa have been without her for long periods over the last two years, as she’s battled back injuries, and have found a capable leader in Sune Luus, and have retained most of the group that played together five years ago. Lizelle Lee, ranked top batter in ODIs not long ago, and Laura Wolvaardt form a formidable opening pair, and at the other end, Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp are fierce with the new ball. There may be gaps in the middle but South Africa have routinely found personnel to come good on the day and as a collective, they could achieve big things.
Sune Luus (capt), Chloe Tryon, Ayabonga Khaka, Lara Goodall, Laura Wolvaardt, Lizelle Lee, Marizanne Kapp, Masabata Klaas, Mignon du Preez, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Shabnim Ismail, Sinalo Jafta, Tazmin Brits, Trisha Chetty, Tumi Sekhukhune | Traveling reserves: Andrie Steyn, Nadine de Klerk, Raisibe Ntozakhe
South Africa have won their last five ODI series, dating back to before Covid-19 times in January 2020. They have beaten New Zealand, Pakistan, India and West Indies (home and away).
Player to watch
Kapp and Ismail headline South Africa’s attack but Ayabonga Khaka is a more-than-capable third prong and has been at the forefront of some of South Africa’s best performances. With her pinpoint accuracy and reliable variations, Khaka was the bowler who kept South Africa in the 2017 World Cup semi-final with a strangling economy rate and she has developed into a genuine wicket-taking option since. She is currently the joint-leading wicket-taker in ODI cricket in 2022, and was crucial to South Africa’s victory over West Indies, where she also claimed her first five-wicket haul. All told, she lies seventh on the ODI bowling rankings, and is South Africa’s second-best in that category, above Kapp. This World Cup should also bring up an important milestone for her: Khaka is four away from 100 ODI wickets.
What the captain said
“There has been a lot of pressure in the past and we didn’t always handle it well. I feel like we have been through three big semi-finals now and I don’t think our hearts can take another close semi-final. If we get to the semi-finals stage again we are going to make sure we push through even if it’s the last thing we do, so we are going to give our best to make it through to that final.” Sune Luus
Fargana Hoque plays a sweep during her 95-ball 71 AFP/Getty Images
Bangladesh will be appearing in ICC Women’s World Cup for the first ever time, and will be banking on their recent form to take them far in the tournament. Between November and January, Bangladesh took part in two qualifying tournaments, which amounted to all the cricket they have played since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Bangladesh missed out on a Commonwealth Games spot after Sri Lanka beat them in the deciding match in Kuala Lumpur in January. Still, for a team that has played very little cricket in the last two years, it will be counted as crucial match practice ahead of the World Cup.
Bangladesh are among three teams who qualified to the World Cup on the back of their ODI rankings following the cancellation of the qualifiers in Zimbabwe, last November. Under new captain Nigar Sultana, they had already played three of their four matches, losing only to Thailand in a game affected by bad light.
Bangladesh have a bit of form to work with, in New Zealand. Left-handed batter Murshida Khatun made 126 runs and left-arm spinner Nahida Akter took ten wickets in the Commonwealth Games qualifiers. Nigar is also in form, while Fargana Hoque and Sharmin Akhter both made runs in the World Cup qualifiers, with the latter hitting a century. A slight worry is Jahanara Alam’s form, but the seamer comes with vast international experience and can be expected to perform when it counts the most.
Nigar Sultana (capt), Salma Khatun, Rumana Ahmed, Fargana Hoque, Jahanara Alam, Shamima Sultana, Fahima Khatun, Ritu Moni, Murshida Khatun, Nahida Akter, Sharmin Akhter, Lata Mondal, Sobhana Mostary, Fariha Trisna, Suraiya Azmin, Sanjida Akter Meghla
Bangladesh won three out of their four matches in the Commonwealth Games qualifier, as well as two out of the three matches they played in the World Cup qualifiers. All things considered, they are still a work in progress.
Player to watch
Bangladesh have a blend of young and experienced players, but even after 14 years of playing at the highest level, the buck stops with Salma Khatun. The offspinner who bats usefully lower down the order, Salma is Bangladesh’s leading wicket-taker in T20Is, and among the top three in ODIs.
What the captain said
“We have never played ODIs against England, Australia and New Zealand, so it will be a new experience for us. We follow them on TV and Internet, because we knew that one day we would have to face them. Our analyst is also helping us to understand their game.”
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