With Australia, England and New Zealand looking poised to pull away from the pack in the 2017-21 ICC Women’s Championship (ICCWC), there are likely to be four teams battling for one spot, with Sri Lanka almost certainly out of contention already.
Thought the tournament is less than halfway through, the result of this series could all but consign either West Indies or South Africa to the the World Cup qualifying tournament in 2021.
If the West Indies were to suffer a whitewash in this series, it’s difficult to see them picking up the points required, given they are yet to face Australia, England or India in this edition of the tournament, nor for that matter, a much-improved Pakistan. South Africa still have tough series vs Australia and New Zealand ahead of them after this series.
This series marks South Africa’s second bilateral tour of the Caribbean (their first, in 2013 ended 2-2 with one no result, and they also visited for the World T20 in 2010), and the 1st ODI will be just the second women’s ODI to be played at the historic Kensington Oval. The last bilateral series between the sides was won by the West Indies in South Africa in February 2016.
South Africa began their ICCWC campaign with 2-1 losses at home to India and away to England, while the West Indies have inflicted a whitewash at home vs Sri Lanka and suffered a whitewash on their tour to New Zealand.
The head-to-head record between these sides stands at an even 9-9, with one tie, though their most recent encounter was anything but close:
The nadir of the West Indies’ 2017 World Cup campaign (which in itself became something of an extended nadir for the 2013 finalists) was their crushing defeat at the hands of the South Africans at Grace Road.
The West Indies could only limp to 48 all out in 25.2 overs, the lowest World Cup total for twenty years, with Chedean Nation (26 off 53) the only player to score more than 4. South Africa then brushed aside the target in 6.2 overs, for the simplest of 10 wicket victories.
Cleaning up a shell-shocked tail, after pacers Kapp & Ismail had obliterated the top order, South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk came away with the absurd figures of 3.2-3-0-4. The only time in the history of men’s or women’s international cricket that a bowler has finished with four or more wickets without conceding a run. At 31.4 overs, the game itself was the third shortest non-rain-affected match in the history of women’s ODIs.
Since the World Cup, South Africa have continued to be one of the busiest sides in women’s cricket, organising a bilateral series vs Bangladesh, independent of the ICCWC, and taking part in the T20I tri-series in England.
West Indies on the other hand, have been among the least active of sides, playing just six ODIs and seven T20Is since the World Cup. Among team with ODI status, only Ireland have played fewer fixtures in that time.
Women’s international matches played since the 2017 World Cup:
Australia (6 ODIs & 8 T20Is), can better weather periods of inactivity at international level, thanks to the world’s strongest domestic List A and T20 tournaments in the WNCL and WBBL, and having multiple players being in demand for the KSL.
By contrast, the West Indies largely have to rely on national training camps and a relatively short domestic season, involving no overseas players.
While Stafanie Taylor, Hayley Matthews and Deandra Dottin played in WBBL03, Taylor was the only West Indian to take part in the most recent KSL season, which concluded last month. Taylor reached finals day with Western Storm for the third year in succession, though had her least impressive tournament as an individual.
As well as playing an ODI series and T20I series in England in June/July, four South Africans also took part in the KSL. Mignon du Preez played for last placed Southern Vipers, while Marizanne Kapp, Dane van Niekerk and Lizelle Lee all played a major role for eventual champions, Surrey Stars.
Van Niekerk was the Stars highest wicket taker, Kapp their most economical bowler, and Lee made history by becoming the first woman to make a century in a women’s T20 final.
Having looked less than convincing as a stand-in keeper for SA in England, Lee is likely to be allowed to concentrate on her batting in the Caribbean. That’s probably for the best, as there are few places where women’s ODI batting is harder-going than the West Indies.
Over the course of women’s ODI history, there have been just three centuries made in the region. Stafanie Taylor is the only West Indian woman to have made a home century. Three-figure scores come at a rate of one every 299 innings, the worst rate for any nation in which an ODI century has been made.
Since the start of 2016, the collective ODI batting average in the West Indies has been 17.37, the lowest in any ODI nation during that time.
Women’s ODI conversion rate by host nation:
Lee could well be the player to break that Caribbean century drought. As well as her domestic T20 heroics in England, her 117 vs England at Hove in June was the first ODI century against England in England for three years. Lee’s opening partner, Laura Wolvaardt will look to continue her outstanding start to her ODI career. Against India in February, Wolvaardt became the youngest woman to bring up 1,000 ODI runs, and the 4th fastest in terms of innings batted (27).
For the West Indies, responsibility for run-scoring will rely heavily on captain Stafanie Taylor. Since the start of 2016, Taylor is the only West Indian to average over 30, and has nine half-centuries compared with a collective six 50+ scores from her teammates. Taylor, who made her maiden ODI century vs South Africa in Paarl in 2009, has four half-centuries in her last five ODI innings.
After a strong domestic List A & T20 season, West Indies have recalled Chemaine Campbelle. Campbelle, who last played international cricket in November 2016, has the distinction of being the only woman to make an ODI century from outside the top 5 in the batting order (Campbelle made 105 from #7 vs Sri Lanka at Dambulla in 2013).
As well as Campbelle, West Indies will be hoping for better things from Deandra Dottin and and Hayley Matthews. Matthews, who began her ODI career with three fifties in three innings vs Australia last made an ODI half-century in 2016 (56 against South Africa at East London in Feb 2016). Matthews did make 53 in a T20I vs New Zealand in February, which was her first international half-century since her starring role in the 2016 World T20 final.
Dottin, once the biggest hitter in women’s cricket has now been overshadowed by several other players. While Dottin still holds the record for most women’s ODI sixes (67), since the start of 2016 it’s South Africa’s Lizelle Lee (54) and Chloe Tryon (42) who lead the way. By contrast, Dotiin has just 9 in the same period. Dottin’s SR (76.52) is merely above average (69.46) for the period and pales in comparison to the numbers for Lee (98.04) and Tryon (109.13).
The West Indies’ run rate has looked pedestrian compared with other nations in recent years. In matches among the top 8 sides since the start of 2016, West Indies have scored at 3.82 rpo. Only Pakistan (3.78) and Sri Lanka (3.51) have fared worse. The average rate in that time has been 4.49 rpo.
It’s likely bowlers will be on top for much of the series. South Africa will miss Shabnim Ismail, but only Shashikala Siriwardene (who has bowled twice as many innings vs West Indies) has more ODI wickets vs West Indies than captain Dane van Niekerk (29).
With a raft of spinners and some canny pace bowlers at their disposal, West Indies’ main strength is their bowling, particularly in home conditions. In matches between the top 8 sides since the start of 2016 West Indies have a collective ER of 4.21 rpo, the third best in that period. At 3.42 rpo, they have by far the most economical set of bowlers in home conditions since the start of 2016. The next best are India at 4.08 rpo.
Expect Anisa Mohammed to pick up the two wickets she needs to overtake Lisa Sthalekar and become the 3rd highest wicket taker in women’s ODI history. That would also make Mohammed the highest placed spinner.
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Other landmarks to look out for
Mignon Du Preez (2,951) is set to become the first South African woman to 3,000 ODI runs.
Marizanne Kapp needs one wicket to become the second South African and ninth woman overall to the 1,000 run, 100 wicket double in ODIs.
Merissa Aguilleira is one victim away from claiming 100 ODI keeping dismissals. Aguilleira would be the first West Indian woman to that mark and the fifth overall.
ICC Women’s Championship
West Indies v South Africa
1st ODI, Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, 16 September
2nd ODI, Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, 19 September
3rd ODI, Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, 22 September
West Indies: Stafanie Taylor (c), Merissa Aguilleira, Shemaine Campbelle, Shamilia Connell, Deandra Dottin, Afy Fletcher, Qiana Joseph, Kycia Knight, Hayley Matthews, Natasha Mclean, Anisa Mohammed, Chedean Nation, Shakera Selman
South Africa: Dané van Niekerk (c), Marizanne Kapp, Masabata Klaas, Lizelle Lee, Suné Luus, Zintle Mali, Raisibe Ntozakhe, Mignon du Preez, Robyn Searle, Tumi Sekhukhune, Saarah Smith, Chloe Tryon, Faye Tunnicliffe, Laura Wolvaardt
ICC Women’s Championship statistics (ESPNcricinfo)