Stimela si qhamuka e South Africa
Stimela si qhamuka e South Africa..."
The media centre at the WACA, like most press boxes in cricket stadiums around the world, denies its occupants many aural pleasures that lay at the heart of the game's visceral appeal. On Sunday night, when South Africa's women beat England for the first time at a T20 World Cup, the best part of the sounds of South Africa's historic victory remained on the other side of the glass. One of the few that consistently penetrated through the gaps of its two doors was verses of "Shosholoza", emanating from the Bradman Room, adjacent to the media centre.
"That was the main song we were singing all through this game," said Mapumi Mabuza, general manager (stakeholder relations) at Brand South Africa, a government-owned agency, who was among the 60-strong South Africa contingent in the Bradman Room, singing away, raising toasts. "It's like an anthem of unity. Used back in the day by migrant labourers, South Africans sing it to encourage each other, cheer them on. And it seemed to have worked for our girls today, in the presence of such a strong South Africa support.
"I found out recently from the high commissioner that the estimate [of the number of South Africans living in Australia] is about close to half a million. A lot of them have lived here for a while, some have come here for work. For our girls to win for the first time... it's a proud, proud day for all of us present here, and back home too."
As celebrations among the Brand South Africa revellers picked up, Mignon Du Preez, barely catching her breath back from the thrill of the six and four she struck off the last two balls to seal South Africa's chase, went about a string of post-match interviews near the boundary overlooked by the Bradman Room.
In the lead-up to the game, too, much of the focus had been on du Preez. In a career spanning over 13 years, with more than 200 international caps across formats and appearances in all six editions of the T20 World Cup prior, du Preez, a former captain and senior batter in the side, was to become the first South African woman to play 100 T20Is. It was fitting therefore that standing atop a national record, she should go down on a knee to reflect for a moment after top-edging the third ball in the last over, with the six putting South Africa one run shy of victory.
"Everybody who knows me knows that religion is very important for me, so before I go to bed, I say, 'God gave me the story and he got me on the bus, now play for him'," du Preez said after the match. "And in that moment also, I just said, 'Please, just be with me. And thank you for being with me before, when I hit the six, because that was probably the hard part but now just stay with me to make sure that and finish it off for the team.'"
In her 99 T20I matches prior, only three times had du Preez struck the winning runs. Here then was an opportunity for her to not only make her milestone match a historic one for her team, but to also overcome an opponent that thwarted their progression to the final and semi-final in the last two world tournaments.
"This will give us the boost we need to go one step further than the semi-finals and take a World Cup trophy home. We know we're good enough" Mignon du Preez
"I've played enough games in my career to be able to step up in crucial moments and I think to finally do that and contribute to the team is really special," du Preez said. "It's nice to finally beat them in an ICC tournament. This is the seventh one I've played in and we've never got close before. To put that behind us and move forward is really exciting.
"We've always known how strong we are and that within the team we have match-winners but we had a monkey on our back. This will give us the boost we need to go one step further than the semi-finals and take a World Cup trophy home. We know we're good enough, we just have to play well and enjoy it."
South Africa's landmark win also coincided with the WACA recording its highest attendance - 2008 - for a women's match. Sunday's figures surpassed the combined numbers from Saturday's double-header (ticketed as one game) by a count of four, the spectators including a strong travelling contingent from the UK, including families of players and members of the Barmy Army.
The turnout at the WACA on Sunday was only a fraction of the 16,000-plus attendance at the Sydney Showground Stadium, where India stunned defending champions Australia two days earlier in the tournament opener. However, South Africa sinking a higher-ranked England has only underscored just how closely contested a world tournament this could be, and just how important for teams to hold their nerves.
"At the halfway…she [Dane van Niekerk, the captain] said she wants every batter that walks into the crease tonight to bat themselves and know they've got a job to do and they can finish it off," du Preez said. "The way she and Kappy [Marizanne Kapp] set the example, the brilliant partnership [of 84 for the second wicket] in the middle, that definitely got us close to what we needed.
"We know we've got batting depth. I think it's important for them to take it as deep as possible. And every batter that walked into the crease just know that you have the ability and you can win a game for your country."