Revenge will probably be uppermost in the minds of the South African senior women’s national cricket team when they confront England in a three-match ODI series starting in Northampton tomorrow.
The second ODI will be played in Bristol on Friday, and the third and final one is scheduled to take place in Leicester next Monday.
The two teams have already engaged in combat twice this year.
The Proteas Women knocked defending champions England over in the pool stages of the Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand in March, which was won by Australia.
The win, South Africa’s first ODI success over England in 20 years, put the English campaign in jeopardy as it was their third in succession.
But England had the last laugh as they triumphed when the teams met in the semifinal to break the hearts of the South Africans, who had looked to be on course for what would have been their maiden World Cup final and glory.
However, over and above South Africa’s desire to avenge that semifinal heartbreak with a series win, the three-match ODI series in England has a significant meaning.
Every women’s ODI series is part of the ICC Women’s Championship cycle 2022 to 2025, so each ODI match counts as it contributes points that will determine qualification for the 2025 World Cup.
READ: Proteas women lose warm-up game to England A
There are 10 teams in the ICC Women’s Championship. South Africa are joint top of the points table with India on six points, after the former accumulated two points each from their 3-0 whitewash of Ireland last month.
It is still early days as the championship only started last month, with Pakistan beating Sri Lanka 2-1 in Karachi.
The second series of the championship, also played last month, was South Africa’s 3-0 stroll over Ireland in England to take the lead on the points table.
India beat Sri Lanka 3-0 in Pallekele this week to become the joint leaders (see points table).
This year’s Women’s World Cup was hosted by New Zealand in March. The next edition will be in England in 2025. Between these two editions is the World Cup cycle 2022 to 2025.
In this cycle, the top 10 women’s ODI teams will play a number of series against each other, with each team guaranteed 24 ODIs.
Each team will play eight three-match series against the other teams, four home and four away.
WHY IS THE ICC WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP IMPORTANT?
The top five ranked teams at the end of the cycle will get automatic qualification to the next World Cup.
South Africa would like to be one of those five teams by the cut-off date for automatic qualification.
The sixth qualifying team will be the hosts.
The other two teams will be decided by a qualifier. The bottom two teams will join the other teams that are not ranked in the top 10 in a qualifying tournament.
The top two from that qualifying tournament will complete the 10-team 2025 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup to be hosted by England.
WHAT’S NEW ABOUT THE ICC WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP?
In previous World Cup cycles, there were eight teams that competed against each other.
The ICC has increased that number to 10 with the inclusion of Bangladesh and Ireland.
The next Women’s World Cup will be the first to feature 10 teams.
The other eight teams are South Africa, Australia, England, New Zealand, the West Indies, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
After South Africa fought tooth and nail to force a draw in the one-off test against England last month, albeit with the help of rain stoppages, Hilton Moreeng’s side shifted their focus to white ball cricket with two warm-up matches this week.
The first warm-up in Cardiff on Monday, a T20 match, didn’t go South Africa’s way as the England A side won by 15 runs.
The second one in Leicester on Thursday, a 50-over game, didn’t go South Africa’s way either, as England convincingly won by a seven-wicket margin.
It’s not the kind of preparation any coach would want.
But, for Moreeng, the two warm-up matches were more about trying out combinations and giving everyone game time and less about results.
“It’s not at all about results,” Moreeng said ahead of tomorrow’s first ODI at the City Ground.
“We tried a few combinations here and there. Everyone has got an opportunity and they are starting to show steps in the right direction.”
South Africa will be boosted by the return of match-winners and key fast bowlers Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka, as well as experienced wicketkeeper-batter Trisha Chetty, who all missed the one-off test match.
But Moreeng has no illusions about the battle ahead.
“We know that it is going to be a tougher challenge against England on their home turf.”