The South African women’s cricket team’s first try at Test cricket in eight years ended in a stalemate in England this week, and one could only praise the Proteas batters for sticking at it, as well as their attack for being competitive against mighty opposition.
At the midway point on the second day, England were struggling on 125/5 in reply to South Africa’s 284, showing just how competitive the Proteas were, even with first-choice players Shabnim Ismail, Chloe Tryon, Ayabonga Khaka and Dane van Niekerk all unavailable.
It took a phenomenal partnership between one of England’s most storied all-rounders, Nat Sciver (169), and Alice Davidson-Richards (107) to eventually lift the home side to a first-innings lead of 133, at which point they declared on the third afternoon.
South Africa had a day-and-a-half to survive to bat themselves to the draw and, although the weather gave a helping hand, one could only admire their determination. Especially Marizanne Kapp, who backed up her magnificent 150 in the first innings with 43 not out on the final day, and Tumi Sekhukhune, who was sheer defiance at the crease, having come in the previous evening as nightwatcher.
Batting for longer than she ever has in a match, the 23-year-old pace bowler stayed at her post for three hours, keeping 134 deliveries at bay for 33 not out. In her 48 white-ball games for South Africa, Sekhukhune had only previously faced 81 balls in international cricket.
“We had a three-day warm-up match but nothing could really prepare us for what we experienced in this Test,” captain Sune Luus said.
“Nat and Alice played amazing innings, but I thought our young bowling attack did well. They kept running in with 100% effort all the time, and if Tumi’s innings doesn’t persuade people of our character and fight, then I just don’t know.”
While the cost of staging women’s Test cricket means it is unlikely to become an everyday thing anytime soon, Luus was clear that the South Africans would like to play more of the format.
“I haven’t watched a lot of Test cricket but I will have to start soon,” Luus joked.
“It’s a definite learning curve for us, but the team obviously enjoyed it a lot. We learnt plenty and we will take a lot of experience from this.
“We were put in tough situations but we still had a lot of laughs. Hopefully we will get more Test matches in the near future.”