Southeast stars 135 for 6 (Smith 38, Scrivens 2-22) count Sunrises 132 for 8 (Grey 34*, Scholfield 3-24) with four wickets
Villiers had batted at number 5 in Sunrisers’ first match of the campaign, a loss to Central Sparks, and scored 70 from her usual position of number 4 as Sunrisers upset Vipers in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, which remains their only win thus well into the history of the league which started in 2020.
Van Niekerk’s last competitive game was on April 11 at the FairBreak Invitational and it showed in her 17-of-19 balls with flashes of her brilliance seeping through some scratches as she initially struggled to get Freya Davies off the square before taking the third batted and fifth ball of the game. Davies’ second over for four, with Villiers also finding the limit of the first. And van Niekerk admitted she had a few nerves before walking out to hit.
“I was shaking,” Van Niekerk told ESPNcricinfo. “I haven’t shivered like that in a long time, in the first over, but I said to myself ‘don’t be silly, you’ve been doing it for a long time’, and got over it and hopefully I can just contribute well to this tournament for the team.
“I think with everything that happened, you say, ‘I don’t want to prove a point,’ but in the back of your mind, you think, ‘I probably should,’ but I think it was just that I didn’t want to. fail. In the back of my mind I was like ‘just don’t take a duck, don’t take a duck, don’t take a duck’ and when I got that first run the nerves settled down. whereas since I played a competitive game there was a lot of crowd , so it was just a little twitchy, but I’m glad I got it out of the way.
My success rate [89.47] probably didn’t show how I felt,” she added. “I felt like I hit 85% off center, so those are good signs for me. At least I didn’t walk away thinking I’m in trouble here. I’m obviously disappointed that I didn’t hit any holes, but that will come as I play more.”
Scholfield’s 3 for 34 were crucial in keeping Sunrisers at 132 for 8, which looked below average but could have been much worse after they went down to 64 for 6 to make it 48 runs between Jo Gardner and Eva Gray who top-scored for her side with an unbeaten 34 from 24 balls, saved something from the innings.
Sunrisers weren’t helped by the chaotic run-out from Amara Carr, who attempted a second run on Alice Davidson-Richards when she and batting partner Cordelia Griffith nearly collided and then engaged in an ungainly sideways dance as they drifted farther and farther from the field moved as they tried to avoid each other. Carr fell short of her ground when Davidson-Richards retrieved Scholfield’s throw from a deep back square and deflected the bail at the non-striker’s end.
Grace Scrivens, who dropped from opener to No. 4, had already ridden out, and when Griffith hollowed out a full toss to give Scholfield her second wicket and Florence Miller was trapped by Bryony Smith, Sunrisers were confused. It was only thanks to Gardner and Gray that they had something to defend. But then Garder ran out in another mix-up and captain Kelly Castle was bowled cheaply by Scholfield, leaving Sunrisers with plenty of work to do with the ball.
Smith, who scored 83 in the Stars loss to Vipers on Tuesday, started the chase strong with three fours off Gray’s second over, the fourth from the reply.
Villiers, who had taken three wickets against Sparks to add to three three-wicket draws of the 50-over competition so far this season, trapped Aylish Cranstone lbw with her first ball, but it would be her only wicket for this match.
But van Niekerk, who was seen advising England Under-19 captain Scrivens while she was bowling, was confident that success would come.
“The nice thing is that I’ve experienced that over the years with the South African team and it comes down to faith first and foremost,” said Van Niekerk. “You have to believe that you can beat any team. You can’t go on with what happened in the past, you have to believe. Also the experience in these crisis situations, and we don’t always get it right, but I just have a point of reference and I think that’s why I’m here, that’s me trying to talk to the players, in certain situations I try to transfer my knowledge to them.
“It’s just about making sure we make the right decisions in those crisis situations. We brought it back really well today. The focus just shifted a little bit and those are things that we’ll talk about more often, just shift the focus “We are very focused every time. This team has a lot of talent and a lot of potential. It’s about everything clicking.”
Villiers’ link with van Niekerk – both were part of the Surrey Stars side that won the WCSL in 2018 – was instrumental in making the move to play in England on a two and a half deal month before returning to Oval. Invincible to the Hundred in August.
“I want to play cricket, that’s a fact, and I know Mady very well, and I know it, Eva [Gray] and Jo Gardner, so it wasn’t a good idea for me,” Van Niekerk said. We had a good laugh together.”
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo last week ahead of her reunion with van Niekerk, Villiers said: “I played with her at Surrey Stars so I’ve known her for about five years. We get along really well. She has a great laugh and she will do anything for everyone and she is great to have on the side. She just wants to enjoy her cricket again and I think she will be great for us.”
Valkerie Baynes is Editor in Chief of Women’s Cricket at ESPNcricinfo