Anyone who calls themself a cricket person will struggle to forget what happened at Lord’s on July 23 2017.
For the benefit of noncricket people — which includes those who think the game is worth watching only when it is played by men — England beat India by nine runs in the World Cup final‚ as heartstopping a contest as has been seen in any arena anywhere in any sport.
But for cricket-minded South Africans‚ the events of July 18 at Bristol will be more prominent in the memory.
Dané van Niekerk’s team fought like black mambas in their semifinal‚ but they could not stop England from squeaking to victory by two wickets with two balls to spare.
The image of Marizanne Kapp‚ as tough-minded a fast bowler as has ever marked out a run-up‚ sitting unmoved on the outfield in the long minutes immediately after the match‚ even as the cordite swirled all around and the England players let rip with yawps of happiness and relief‚ will endure.
All that‚ and more‚ will be back in the consciousness on Saturday when the teams clash again‚ in Worcester, in the first of three ODIs. The matches will form part of the International Cricket Council Women’s Championship‚ the qualifying system for the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand.
Unsurprisingly‚ England captain Heather Knight found reasons to focus on her team’s World Cup triumph rather than the big scare SA gave them in Bristol. "Our opening game against SA will be the first time we’ve played at home since the day we lifted the World Cup trophy‚ so that will be exciting‚" Knight said on Thursday.
Equally understandably‚ Van Niekerk had unfinished business in England. "Last time was a bitter pill to swallow so it will be good to rectify what went wrong‚" she said.
Leg-spinner Van Niekerk and Kapp were the top wicket-takers at the World Cup and SA will look to them and the rest of their attack to keep England under pressure.
"I’ve always loved our bowling; backed our bowling‚" Van Niekerk said. "If the batters start firing we are as dangerous as any other world batting unit."
SA have won only eight of 25 ODIs against England in England and not since 1999 have they beaten the hosts in consecutive matches.
But that was then: before Bristol. Nothing can be the same since the South Africans proved their mettle‚ and both teams know that.
SA squad: Dané van Niekerk (capt)‚ Tazmin Brits‚ Shabnim Ismail‚ Marizanne Kapp‚ Ayabonga Khaka‚ Masabata Klaas‚ Stacey Lackay‚ Lizelle Lee‚ Suné Luus‚ Zintle Mali‚ Raisibe Ntozakhe‚ Mignon du Preez‚ Andrie Steyn‚ Chloe Tryon and Laura Wolvaardt.
June 9: Worcester
June 12: Hove
June 15: Canterbury