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Mignon du Preez has got her mojo working, and it's come at the perfect time

South Africa's batting is starting to hit top gear at the business end of the World Cup

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
27-Mar-2022
Mignon du Preez: "I think it's not how you started the tournaments, but how you finish it"  •  ICC via Getty

Mignon du Preez: "I think it's not how you started the tournaments, but how you finish it"  •  ICC via Getty

South Africa's batting is starting to click at the business end of the World Cup, thanks largely to a resurgence in form for Mignon du Preez, who scored her first fifty of the tournament in a thrilling, last-ball win over India on Sunday.
She is the most experienced player in the South Africa XI, but has been inconsistent over the last year, and has the third-poorest average among players who have scored over 500 runs in the world event over the years. Now, finally, she is starting to show signs of authority with crucial undefeated knocks in South Africa's last two games.
South Africa were 22 for 4 against West Indies when du Preez steadied the ship with a 38 not out, but rain prevented further play from taking place. Then, she went one better with 52 not out against India, which included a 47-run fifth-wicket stand with Marizanne Kapp, that took South Africa to the brink of victory.
"I was really disappointed with the way I've performed recently," du Preez, who had not crossed 20 in nine innings before the West Indies match, said. "I've been very fortunate that I've had the backing from the whole team all the way through. That kind of helped a little bit just to ease the pressure, but from my point of view, I definitely wanted to contribute."
Although she still has the fewest fifties by a top-six batter at World Cups - just two - the one against India was worth more than simply its weight in statistics. It helped South Africa complete their highest successful chase in ODIs and take winning momentum into the knockouts, and it enhanced the self-belief among the group that they have what it takes to go all the way.
"It's about stepping up in big moments, and when the team needed me most - and I think even the other day against West Indies - I had a little bit of my belief back," she said. "It was just good to finally contribute so close to the semi-finals. I think it's not how you started the tournaments, but how you finish it."
She acknowledged that she spent her first few innings in the tournament hanging back in the crease and adjusted to a more aggressive approach in the last two matches.
"What got me in trouble in the first few games was I felt like I got stuck at the crease. I'm really good when I use my feet and when I'm busy at the crease," du Preez said. "I think I kind of lost that trying to just get myself in and I decided for the last bit I'm just going to actually have positive intent, whether that is good foot movement, good just putting the bowler under pressure.
"The ball didn't go where I wanted, I was targeting straight over the bowler's head and I dragged it a little. I had a little bit of luck on my side finally, I haven't felt that I had luck throughout the tournament just yet"
Mignon du Preez, on the slice of good fortune against India
"It might not be about looking to hit it over the top but just to actually get to the ball and show good intent, and I think it definitely paid off. That was the mindset to not… just get to the ball and be positive, and I think it's working for me at the moment."
After taking her time to get going against Bangladesh and England, du Preez upped the ante against Australia, where she scored a 13-ball 14 and has since been striking at over 80. She has also found more scoring areas in the 'V', as she has looked to take on the bowling and almost won the game for South Africa with a big shot over Deepti Sharma off the penultimate ball of the match on Sunday.
She ended up hitting it to long-on and was caught, but Deepti had overstepped, and gave du Preez and South Africa a match-winning lifeline. "The ball didn't go where I wanted, I was targeting straight over the bowler's head and I dragged it a little," she said. "I had a little bit of luck on my side finally, I haven't felt that I had luck throughout the tournament just yet."
South Africa, some will argue, have had plenty of luck with last-over victories against Pakistan, England, New Zealand and India, all of which have shown their ability to hold their nerve under pressure. It was exactly that, which had failed them in the semi-final against England five years ago. On Thursday, they have an opportunity to play England in the semi-final again and du Preez believes everyone, including her, is ready. "We knew this was important for us going into the back-end of the tournament to get a bit of momentum," she said. "And so we definitely wanted to play to our standards and do the best we can and I think we did just that today."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent