Test history ... but all eyes on the ODIs
History will be made on Saturday as Netherlands become the tenth country to play a women's Test when they take on South Africa in Hazelaarweg, Rotterdam. The game is surprising coming as it does at a time when Tests are becoming rarer in women's cricket - New Zealand have decided not to play them again.
The main interest on South Africa's short tour comes when the sides play three ODIs in Amstelveen, Utrecht and Deventer on August 2,4 and 5. The games form a key part of the sides' preparations for the World Cup qualifier in Lahore in November. That event, which will also involve Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Bermuda, Ireland, Scotland and Zimbabwe, will see the top two line-ups qualify for the World Cup in Australia in 2009.
South Africa's last outing came earlier this year when they whitewashed Pakistan 4-0 at home. Netherlands have not played in almost a year since they lost both ODIs on a short tour of Ireland.
Cri-Zelda Brits, South Africa's captain, said her players, who have prepared for the trip by practising at Supersport Park in Centurion, near Pretoria, are in a positive mood and are looking forward to the games. "It's quite an exciting tour as most of the players have never been to the Netherlands before and will be going to unfamiliar territory. I have played some club cricket in the Netherlands, so the conditions and the opposition's strengths will not be new to me."
Brits said the Lahore event remained the team's most important target but she emphasised that fact did not reduce the significance of other series. "The Lahore event is definitely the most important of all, seeing that we need to qualify for the World Cup," she said. "However, we won't downplay the importance of any other away tours. As a team we have spoken and worked long and hard on where we are and what we'd like to achieve. It's vital that we compete at the top level as much as possible to give ourselves exposure to that standard of cricket.
"And as for this tour, it gives us a perfect chance to see where we are in terms of world cricket and what we need to work on before the qualifiers."
Brits said she is unsure what to expect from the Dutch. "It's hard to tell. I'm aware they have had a few withdrawals which means they have a fairly young side but we won't underestimate any international side and therefore, we are just preparing to play tough opponents, as we would at all times."
Helmien Rambaldo, Netherlands' captain, said: "This series is a very important part of our preparations for the World Cup qualifier. The more games we get to play before the Lahore event, the better. Our schedule is looking good with lots of international cricket coming up in the next few weeks both with this series against South Africa and the European Cup.
"This series will also be a great opportunity to get to know the South African players and their strategies, which will be an advantage when we play against them again in Pakistan."
Rambaldo said she believed South Africa will be tough opponents and she urged her team to stick to the basics. "We see South Africa as a strong side with good results in their past series against Pakistan. Their batting line up is good with players such as Brits and [Johmari] Logtenberg, and both their pace bowlers and spin bowlers will try to take us on. However, we will play hard and committed. Our focus is on the basics. If we get our basics right, we will exceed at our strengths which is what needs to be done to beat them."
Netherlands Helmien Rambaldo (capt), Marloes Bratt, Lotte Egging, Caroline de Fouw, Carlijn de Groot, Jolet hartenhof, Leonie Hoitink, Mandy Karnet, Maartje Koster, Marijn Nijman, Cheraldine Oudolf, Jacqueline Pashley, Denise Prins, Annemarie Tanke, Violet Wattenberg.
South Africa Cri-Zelda Brits (capt), Johmari Logtenberg, Susan Benade; Trisha Chetty; Mignon du Preez; Lonell de Beer; Shibman Ismail; Ashlyn Kilowan; Marcia Letsoalo; Sunette Loubser; Annelie Minnie; Alicia Smith; Claire Terblanche; Daleen Terblanche.