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Match Analysis

New Zealand vs South Africa - a Kapptivating contest

The match had everything possible, almost - here's a lookback at how the Hamilton ODI unravelled

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
17-Mar-2022
Scream while you're winning!  •  AFP/Getty Images

Scream while you're winning!  •  AFP/Getty Images

It's pretty much always a must-win game for you in a World Cup if it's being played in your country. You have only scored 228 against a side undefeated in the competition, and has beaten you in your last three matches. In defence, you have let the opposition get to 156 for 2 after 34 overs. They only need 73 more. You have got 16 overs left to bowl. You get a break, to have a drink and regroup, and one of your team-mates asks: "Where else would you rather be?"
If you're New Zealand, the answer is "nowhere else".
That's what Sophie Devine and her team-mates concluded when Frances Mackay spoke to them. "She spoke about how lucky we are to be involved in these sorts of games, and she's dead right," Devine said after the match. "It's such a privilege to be able to be playing in this tournament - a World Cup at home. And to be in those sorts of pressure situations, that's why we do all those horrific training sessions in the middle of winter, slamming the pavement, it's for those moments."
After that, New Zealand rallied. They took three South African wickets for nine runs and left them needing 59 off 59. Then, they took another two wickets in two overs, and South Africa were on the verge of bottling it.

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It's a game you had in control from the moment your strike bowler bowled the opposition's opening enforcer, through the collapse - six wickets for 30 runs - your quicks triggered, and after your top batter registered a third successive half-century. You're the captain and you'd also done your bit with a half-century and an 88-run stand that should have won your team the match.
But, in a matter of minutes, all that unravels and your tail is left to take it home.
Win, and you'll be criticised for how you almost lost it. Lose, and it will be the c-word all over again.
"It's moments like that where you just appreciate the game of cricket and the players you are with," Sune Luus, South Africa's captain, said. "We've been away from home since the start of January. It's difficult to be away from your family for so long and still perform and still turn up every day, giving your best and giving your all. When you get into situations like this your heart just gets very full and the blood just keeps on pumping. I can't really put it into words. It's just a lot."

****

Luus and the rest of the team sat on the sidelines watching Marizanne Kapp and Ayabonga Khaka snatch a victory that probably was always theirs, but one that New Zealand almost pickpocketed.
They knew they were not at their best. They knew they should have finished it earlier. But what they knew and what was were two different things and that's sometimes how sport works.
"You want your experienced players to take it to the end. It's something you will address after this game to see how we can improve on that," Luus said. "But I don't think people outside understand the pressure that comes with a World Cup game and situations like this."
How could we?
Most of us have been confined to our homes for the last two years, some of us unable to imagine even driving to the next town, never mind going halfway across the world only to be stuck in a hotel room most of our time, as has been the case for sportspeople.
Although this Women's World Cup has not been played in a strict biobubble, the weeks leading up to it, as Luus explained, were busy for most teams. They have been away from home comforts and the familiar faces of families and friends for months, but they have done it because, apart from it being their jobs, opportunities for women's sport to showcase itself on the biggest stage don't come around that often. They have done it because they want to test themselves against the best, and get as close as they can to winning a World Cup.
"It just makes it very special when you step over the line and get that win," Luus said. "It brings the group closer together. It's motivating for us, when we do get home, hopefully after the final, and see our families and then when you look back, hopefully all the pressure and everything will be worth it."

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For one player, it seems to mean all that and a whole lot more.
Kapp is not just without her regular captain, Dane van Niekerk, on the tour, she is also without her wife. She and van Niekerk are partners, in life and in cricket, and play together for various franchise teams around the league circuit. One without the other seemed unlikely until van Niekerk broke her ankle in a freak accident in their new home, leaving Luus to captain and Kapp to play for both of them. She's done it, and how! While well-known as one of the best seam bowlers in the world, Kapp has also taken on the role of finisher with the bat and has orchestrated successful chases against England and, now, New Zealand.
"Marizanne has nerves of steel," Luus said. "She takes it better than all of us could. She is the right person for that time of the game. She has a lot of experience. She has played all around the world in all these kinds of situations. She has a very calm head. She is just showing us all how to stay calm and back your own skill and finish the game off."
It doesn't always look that way. Kapp has been known to yell at her team-mates in moments of high pressure, to show her emotions when things are getting tense, and didn't even celebrate the New Zealand victory bar a scream and a scowl, before dropping to her haunches. She knew it should never have been that difficult.
"She wears her heart on her sleeve," Devine said. "She is an extraordinary athlete. She is super talented with bat and ball. We saw today, with the ball, she just doesn't give you anything, and with the bat, it just shows her experience. I've played alongside her at the [Perth] Scorchers and saw first-hand how dedicated she is in wanting to be better and wanting to help her teams win. She put up her hand tonight and finished the job. She is a great player."
Kapp is indeed making a case to be considered the best allrounder in the game at the moment.

****

You have just lost your third match of the five you have played, and with two to go, you have made it difficult for yourselves to reach the knockouts. You are being schooled by teams that have not beaten you in tournaments before, teams like West Indies and, now, South Africa. And all you can do is tip your hat.
"They are a dark horse within world cricket. They have got one of the most experienced sides going around," Devine said. "We faced that a couple of years ago. We were missing a few players and we weren't at our best and they dealt with us. They fully deserve [the results] the way they've played in this tournament. They are showing the form that makes them the No. 2 side in the world."
As for your own chances, what next? "We win, that's it."
Easier said than done, perhaps.

****

You have won four matches in a row and lie at the top of the points' table jointly with the tournament favourites, who you play next. Still, there is criticism over how close your team is taking all the matches and concern over whether you will be a match for Australia.
You concede you have not been at your best, but you claim to be ready for anything. "We're at a World Cup and I don't think any games come easy. I think it's getting harder, with Australia, West Indies to come," Luus said. "We're prepared to play every game hard, even if it's tough every game and takes us to the last over."
Be careful what you wish for.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent