Luus may be playing for her future in series decider

Sune Luus averages a meagre 7.4 with the bat in the five T20 international matches she has played for the Proteas this year. | BackpagePix

Sune Luus averages a meagre 7.4 with the bat in the five T20 international matches she has played for the Proteas this year. | BackpagePix

Published Apr 3, 2024


Zaahier Adams

No team’s decline can be blamed on any one individual, but former Proteas captain Sune Luus will be fighting for her T20 international future in the series decider against Sri Lanka at Buffalo Park today (6pm start).

The Proteas have been on a downward spiral in the shortest format since that balmy day at Newlands in February last year when they fell just short of toppling the mighty Australians in their first T20 World Cup final.

Sune Luus averages a meagre 7.4 with the bat in the five T20 international matches she has played for the Proteas this year. | BackpagePix

There are, of course, a myriad reasons for the decline, ranging from the retirement of influential fast bowler Shabnim Ismail to the uncertainty around long-serving coach Hilton Moreeng.

However, arguably the greatest stumbling block has been the team’s failure to advance their game, especially in the batting department with Luus, in particular, struggling to meet the demands of the modern game.

World champions Australia have always been aggressive and dominant with the bat, but a number of teams have now followed this blueprint and set new benchmarks in the women’s game.

The Sri Lankans, in particular, have relished this attacking style and have already recorded a historic series victory in England since last year’s T20 World Cup and are now on the verge of a potential first series victory in South Africa.

The Proteas, meanwhile, have tried, in their own way, to embrace the new world, but remain reliant on a few key batters in captain Laura Wolvaardt, opening partner Tazmin Brits and superstar all-rounder Marizanne Kapp for contributions.

Former skipper Luus relinquished the leadership reins after the T20 World Cup to focus on her batting, but the decision has not reaped the desired results. She averages a meagre 7.4 in five T20Is this year, and has shown little sign of improvement.

The Proteas are understandably hesitant to drop Luus, who has 116 T20Is worth of experience, particularly with Mignon du Preez and Dane van Niekerk also no longer present in the middle order, but they can ill afford to carry a batter who has consistently been out of form.

“We have always wanted to get to 180-plus, getting a few partnerships up front, because we’ve seen the way the women’s game is going now,” Proteas seamer Tumi Sekhukhune told the media.

“Even the subcontinental teams now push 180, and that’s why it’s very crucial for us to get the batting in order, to try and get 180-plus consistently to take that momentum to the World Cup.

“We have always had a good start in the PowerPlay. It’s time that the middle order starts chipping in with some runs. Our batting coach is working towards that. We have experienced players that can take the game away, they just need a bit of confidence to get going.”

Laura Wolvaardt could play tonight against Sri Lanka, if she has sufficiently recovered from illness. | BackpagePix

Much of the Proteas’ problems has been due to their inability to keep the scoreboard ticking over during the middle overs, especially when the spinners are operating on slow surfaces.

They will have to formulate a game plan, though, especially with the T20 World Cup set to be held in Bangladesh.

“We need to get momentum going to the World Cup, and with subcontinental teams we know they are going to come with spin,” Sekhukhune said.

“It’s time that we start getting used to conditions in order for us to play them very well. I think if we get that right, we’ll be able to build up some consistency.”

There was at least some positive feedback for the Proteas with captain Laura Wolvaardt recovering well. The skipper missed the second T20I due to illness after striking her maiden T20I century in the series opener in Benoni.

The classy right-hander has trained both days in the build-up to the series decider and is expected to be at the helm at Buffalo Park.