MATCH REPORT: South Africa v Pakistan

A 100-run opening partnership between Laura Wolvaardt and Lizelle Lee provided the platform for a winning start to South Africa's World Cup campaign; but a fighting performance in the field from Pakistan made them sweat for it until the penultimate over, with Shabnim Ismail hitting 3 boundaries in the 49th to seal the win for the Women Proteas.

Chasing 206, 18-year-old Laura Wolvaardt, who already has two international centuries to her name, signalled her intent by hitting back-to-back cover drives for 4. Lizelle Lee soon joined the party as the pair set off at well over the required rate of a little above 4 an over.

Pakistan pulled things back a little in the post-powerplay overs, but South Africa could still hardly have been better-placed at the half-way point than the 112-0 at which they found themselves, though both batsmen had their scares - Lee dropped on a tough caught & bowled chance by Nashra Sandhu on 28; and Wolvaardt surviving a big LBW shout in her 20s.

The dismissal of Lee for 60 - LBW trying to sweep Sana Mir - came in the 26th over; and Wolvaardt (52) followed shortly afterwards, run out after she turned for a second run and found herself at the same end as Trisha Chetty - the first of 3 run-outs suffered by South Africa.

Mignon du Preez tried valiantly to hold things together, making 30 from 40 balls, but wickets fell around her - Kapp, Tryon and van Niekerk all going cheaply - before du Preez herself holed-out on the boundary, leaving Sune Luus and Ismail still needing 30 runs to win the game.

Pakistan's tails were up by this stage, with an against the odds victory within their grasp; but it wasn't to be as Luus (15) and Ismail (22, off just 21 balls) dragged themselves over the line with 6 balls to spare.

It certainly wasn't the outcome the South African captain would have had in mind when she inserted Pakistan having won the toss on a slightly overcast morning.

Marizanne Kapp looked threatening early on, and took the wicket of Ayesha Zafar in her first over; but overall South Africa's attack lacked penetration, with Moseline Daniels' wobbly inswingers looking the pick of the Proteas' bowling, as she took 2-21 in her 10 overs.

Apart from Zafar and the not-out Sidra Nawaz, all of the Pakistani batsmen got starts to make it to double-figures; but only Nahida Khan was able to push on - the opener making 79, the highest score of the match, before she was run-out at the non-striker's end by Ismail throwing in from the covers - this, together with her crucial batting cameo, going on to earn the South African speedster the Player of the Match award.

In the post-match press conference, of the two captains it seemed to be Pakistan's Sana Mir who appeared the happier, having come so close to securing an upset versus the higher-ranked team:

"Last time when we came here [to Leicester - playing England, last summer] it was a one-sided match with a big team. We wanted to change that - we don’t want a one-sided match. We want to put up a fight. We do have our own limitations, but that’s the number one thing, that we don’t give up until the last ball - I’m very happy with the way the girls fought today."

Meanwhile Dane van Niekerk, despite the win, scolded her team, herself included:

"There’s no excuse for what happened in the middle order. It was us seniors that were part of that, we should know better, there’s no excuse for that and hopefully we’ll rectify that in the games to come."

Asked about the mere handful of overs bowled by their two world-class leg-spinners - herself and Sune Luus bowled just 9 overs between them - she reflected that she might have got it wrong; but put it down to plans:

"In hindsight I probably would have kept on going, but we have spoken about the conditions, it’s not as turning wickets as we’d like, so I don’t feel like we are as effective, we’re probably just there to get that breakthrough. We are capable bowlers, but I feel like with our pace bowlers, we’ve been working on plans and they’ll probably take the bulk of the overs."

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