'The best attack in the world' struts its stuff

van Niekerk praises opening pair after West Indies demolition (2:34)

South Africa captain says she would never have believed anyone offering her the thrashing of West Indies. (2:34)

Dane van Niekerk did not need to see West Indies reduced 16 for 5 to know she had the most destructive opening pair in the women's game. She knew that weeks ago.

Pre-tournament van Niekerk proudly called her attack "the best in the world." She promised Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp would supply a formidable combination of speed and swing, the kind South African teams are known for. She warned opposition line-ups they would not know how to handle them. She didn't say anything about herself.

In fact, van Niekerk's prediction was that the "spin to win" mantra of women's cricket would be forced into a supporting role in English conditions. She spoke about needing to adjust lines and lengths, changing mindsets to become more containing and allowing the quicks to come to the fore.

But glance at the scorecard of this match again, blink once or twice to make sure of what you are seeing, and you won't be able to miss which figures stand out. Beyond the 48 West Indies totalled, the ten single-digit scores on their batting card, Ismail's 2 for 16 and Kapp's 4 for 14, there is van Niekerk's match analysis: 3.2-3-0-4.

She is the only bowler in the world, male or female, to take four wickets without conceding a run in internationals, and she admitted she was both stoked and stunned by the returns. "Not to sound naive, but the ball's not coming out great. I don't know what happened. I can't tell you what happened. I can't even tell you I bowled to a plan -- I was just hoping to land it, to be honest," she said afterwards. "I bowled so many full tosses in the nets, I was just thinking, 'Don't bowl a full toss'. I guess they just missed the balls. I can't say I bowled to a plan. I'm going to lie if I said that I did. I'm just glad I pitched the ball."

Eye-catching as her numbers are, especially against the backdrop of the tough training she had the day before, let's not be, in van Niekerk's words, "naive" about the impact she had on the game. By the time she brought herself on, West Indies had already lost.

They were defeated by South Africa's opening pair who had just the right amount of grass on the pitch and just the right amount of warmth and moisture in the air to be at their very best. They made their opposition look worse that what they really were.

"I looked at the dismissals and the way the ball moved and any batter in the world would probably struggle," van Niekerk said. "Shubby was nipping them back, and Kappi was swinging the ball miles - we know when they are on song that is what happens. They're going to trouble most of the best batters in the world."

West Indies will have to question their shot selection, which started off merely lacking in defence, and then degenerated into complete carelessness. By the time van Niekerk was brought on, the sweep and the hoick were being employed, as though even the batsmen wanted the innings over as quickly as possible. Though Hayley Mathews insisted the problem does not go any deeper than "lack of execution", the side that strode to World T20 victory last year seem to be down on confidence.

South Africa are the complete opposite. "It's surreal. If I could script it, I couldn't script it any better. We had our plans coming into the game and, umm, they worked," van Niekerk said. "To the tee. Our opening bowlers are world-class."

Though they have yet to come up against three of the top four teams at this event - Australia, England and India - and had a washout against New Zealand, South Africa's dominance over higher-ranked West Indies went some way to justifying van Niekerk's claim about their potential. The real proof is still to come with the matches they have left in the pool stage, starting with England on Wednesday.

South Africa know it and so they chose to prepare almost immediately. Instead of allowing themselves an afternoon off, they decided to use the time they had gained to train. Ayabonga Khaka, for one, wanted to bowl six complete overs before leaving Grace Road. "The last thing we want to do is sit in the changeroom, have a drink and put our feet up," van Niekerk said.

Really? "Well, we came here to win a World Cup. That's our goal."