Proteas Group B favourites


South Africa are the leading team in Group B of the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2017 and go into the tournament with the recent experience of playing in sub-continent conditions.

The sixth-ranked side will, however, have to watch out for Pakistan if it hopes to top the group. South Africa has a 12-3 record against Pakistan in 16 matches, with one no-result, but will have to contend with Pakistan’s spin attack and more experience of similar conditions.

Bangladesh, Scotland and Papua New Guinea are the other teams in the group while Group A consists of India, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Zimbabwe and Thailand.

The top three teams from either group will make the Super Six stage and be assured of ODI status over the next four-year cycle while the top four teams will not only qualify for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 but also ensure a place in the next ICC Women’s Championship.

South Africa are bullish going into the tournament after winning a series in Bangladesh 4-1 earlier this month.

South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk: “We’ve really had to adapt to the different situations that were thrown at us and I’m proud of how we came out on the other side. We’ve been put under pressure a lot in the Bangladesh series but I think our bowlers came out on top.

“The batters have also taken massive strides in facing spin and showing the kind of patience that’s needed up front in order to cash in at the latter end of the innings. That for me, has been one of the key outcomes,” the all-rounder said.

South Africa’s main batters are seventh-ranked Lizelle Lee, 12th-ranked Mignon du Preez and 14th-ranked Dane van Niekerk and its bowling attack includes a leg-spinner in Sune Luus to back up pace bowlers Marizanne Kap and Shabnim Ismail.

For Pakistan, the presence of captain Sana Mir and Nida Dar in the spin attack would give them confidence against South Africa and other teams while the likes of 11th-ranked Bismah Maroof and 16th-ranked Javeria Khan give a boost to the batting line up.

Pakistan is not taking things lightly even in the group games.

Pakistan captain Sana Mir: “We are looking to give our best in the preliminary league. South Africa is a strong side and we also can’t take Bangladesh lightly because it can be a dangerous side in these conditions. I feel it is going to be a challenging tournament for us and we have to be at our best.

“This tournament provides us not just with a chance to qualify for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 and the ICC Women’s Championship but is also an opportunity for us to prepare for those tournaments. We are looking forward to the challenges,” Sana said.

Bangladesh will be eying a chance to qualify for the Super Six stage as they lead the group of three remaining teams in terms of ranking, all of which have never qualified for the ICC Women’s World Cup.

Bangladesh has won only two of its six matches against Pakistan and two of 11 against South Africa so far but captain Rumana Ahmed is aiming ahead of the group games.

Bangladesh captain Rumana Ahmed: “We want to qualify for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 but know it will not be easy as sides like India and South Africa are playing in this tournament. Pakistan and Sri Lanka are also contenders for a top-four finish.

“However, we have been training rigorously for this event and have played plenty of quality matches before coming here. We are familiar with our opponents and the conditions. The results may not have gone our way but hopefully we have learnt from our experience and the mistakes.

“We have played in Thailand in the Asia Cup (December-January) recently. Before that we had toured Ireland.

“We also had a five-match ODI series against South Africa at home this month. Besides, we have trained continuously acknowledging the fact that this is a long season for us with many international games.

“Every team and every individual dreams of playing in the World Cup and this tournament is the final stage for qualification.

“With multiple teams qualifying for the main event, we recognize that a good, solid, consistent performance here can actually open the doors to the World Cup.

“It means that teams like us are not that far away from realising that dream. That means a lot and gives us a lot of confidence and hope,” she said.

Scotland and Papua New Guinea will benefit from the experience of playing 50-over cricket against some leading teams in the tournament, which gives a chance to not only qualify for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 but also for the next ICC Women’s Championship if they finish among the top four.

Scotland captain Abbi Aitken: “We face some world-class opposition in Group B, being joined by the likes of Pakistan and South Africa.

“It’s a great chance for us to showcase our skills against these teams and to challenge ourselves at that level. Whatever the outcome, the experience and opportunity is huge, and we will be going out there to do our country proud!”

PNG coach Rodney Maha: “We want to be competitive and make it to the top four so we can qualify for the ICC Women’s World Cup for the first time.

“We have prepared well and the overall preparations have been better than the last ICC WT20 Qualifier in Thailand a couple of years ago. Our strong points will be our bowling and team spirit. Our major challenge will be playing our best cricket all the way to the end.”