WHITE FERNS snatch remarkable first-up victory

The WHITE FERNS have snatched a fighting 12-run win over South Africa in the opening One-Day International at Kimberley’s Diamond Oval — while their hosts fell just a fingernail short of achieving what had threatened to be a shock maiden victory against New Zealand.

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New Proteas captain Dané van Niekerk previewed the series by stating that the gap is closing between the top and bottom ranked teams in the women’s game — “We are competing against the best in the world, as we showed against England and the West Indies” — and it was van Niekerk who almost wrote history in Kimberley, before a vicious late fightback from the WHITE FERNS’ spin attack.

With just 13 runs required from 12 overs and five wickets in hand, van Niekerk looked to be comfortably in command as she stood at the crease unbeaten on 37. Senior WHITE FERN Amy Satterthwaite had other ideas, however and when she bowled van Niekerk in the 38th over, it triggered a dramatic tail-end collapse that saw Satterthwaite and fellow tweaker Erin Bermingham mop up the remaining four wickets for no further runs — South Africa plummeting from 115 for five to 115 all out.

Satterthwaite’s off-spin had delivered an outstanding return of 9-4-13-4, kicked off by dislodging Laura Woolvardt caught and bowled when the opener was holding the South African fort on 33. Satterthwaite’s haul was her ODI career best, legspinner Bermingham wrapping up with 2-17. At the opposite end of the innings, pace bowler Lea Tahuhu (3-41) had meanwhile created all the early excitement — putting herself on a hat-trick when she claimed debutante opener Lara Goodall (caught on five) and experienced first drop Mignon du Preez (bowled for a duck), before adding a scoreless Marizanne Kapp lbw to have the South African chase wobbling at 8/3.

The superb effort from the bowling attack was demanded after the WHITE FERNS’ batting line-up had got off to a nightmare start of its own — pressure from which they were made to work hard to recover. The explosive trio Rachel Priest, captain Suzie Bates and Katey Martin was lost within the first eight overs of the rain-delayed match, after fresh conditions had seen van Niekerk insert the WHITE FERNS — international cricket proving a proverbial drought-breaker by bringing the first rainfall to Kimberley in three months.

Supported by a dogged Katie Perkins, Satterthwaite (19) attempted to steady the ship, before vital late runs arrived from Sam Curtis (22 off 39) and then Bermingham (33 off 53, including a 36-run stand with Tahuhu for the ninth wicket) that helped push the WHITE FERNS’ total to 127 in 40.1 overs.

Still, it was far short of what had been anticipated as opening pace bowler Ayabonga Khaka profited with a career-best haul of 3-27.

Van Niekerk’s 37 off 79 would be the top score for the hosts and, remarkably, all but eight runs in South Africa’s ultimately doomed reply came from just three stands — the second, third, seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th partnerships kept scoreless.

The two points conferred for the victory mean the WHITE FERNS have now inched to a three-point buffer over South Africa on the ICC Women’s Championship table, with a further four points up for grabs in this series.

The teams remain in Kimberley for the second ODI, set for Tuesday at 9pm New Zealand time.

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