September 16 is a date that holds much value for world cricket on the whole, but primarily because one of its greats from India had appeared sporting his national jersey for one last time. The occasion was an ODI against England and it was back in 2011, where Rahul Dravid, known as the Wall, played his final 50-over inning, which yielded 69 fantastic runs.
Yet, in another sense, September 16 but earlier this year in 2021, had much meaning and specifically speaking, for the women’s game.
One of its modern greats, hailing from the Proteas women’s contingent finally got a chance to walk out to bat.
This was after having been rested in the T20I leg of the Windies tour and having not gotten a chance yet in the previous three ODIs before the one on September 16.
But in the very first opportunity that the former South African skipper got to express herself in the Caribbean, Mignon du Preez carved a notable fifty, a seventh in a meaningful, long and productive career. One, that truth be known, is still blossoming and reaching new peaks. Of her side’s 185 painfully accumulated runs, often slow in their make but constructed with caution, Mignon du Preez compiled 65 on her own and took 91 deliveries to do so.
The top four in her opposition camp made 72 together. In the end, South Africa won at the back of its glorious daughter, one who sports a glorious smile. One who seems happy shouldering responsibilities as the bedrock of Protea middle-order batting. She was, eventually, the top scorer on both sides and her diligent knock, where she emerged undefeated.
In the next game, the fifth ODI, she struck a useful 46 off 60. Du Preez’s reassuring and purposeful batting has proven a thing all over again. It’s something that finds a great parallel with Rahul Dravid. Patience has its own rewards. For someone who’s into her early thirties having been placed into the South African cricketing firmament as a prodigious batter when all of 18, du Preez has walked a long mile. And done so patiently.
But guess what, she’s got an even longer distance to go.
The runs are continuously flowing from her bat, nowadays with an even higher tempo of execution than what one noted before. Her appetite to score them with intent has found a renewed purpose. Last year, she was glowing in the media presser Down Under in the T20 world cup, where she exclaimed, “I always wanted to be a match-winner for South Africa.”
Du Preez was speaking at the back of her mega six over deep mid-wicket off Katherine Brunt, a knock that enabled South Africa to beat England in a T20 WC for the first time. This year, nothing much has changed.
She visited that very region of the world in an ultra-competitive cricketing slugfest to steer a path forwards for her Hobart Hurricanes unit, for which she struck a whopping 414 WBBL runs, the most by any lady. This included a particularly gorgeous 87 with runs on all sides of the wicket. Though this wasn’t before tasting success in the Indian sub-continent. Du Preez was amongst the most consistent scorers on what turned out to be a mega fest for the Proteas women in India.
It’s not hard to note how.
Getting to bat not before the middle of the ODI series (5 games), du Preez didn’t waste any time at all in making her intentions clear in Mandhana and Mithali-land. Beginning her tour with a watchful 37 off 46, the second-highest in her team’s report card, she took the player of the match in the very next contest, guiding South Africa home in a tricky run chase (267 needed) as she scored 61 on her own.
Even as Mithali unleashed Gayakwad, Joshi, and even Radha Yadav from different ends, du Preez sought comfort in focus and found a way to blunt the bowling by way of the gentle drives and rasp cuts that carried no disdain but pure method to counter Indian bowlers. In the fifth and final ODI, du Preez’ bat, from which one had grown accustomed of seeing runs, outpoured a slow fifty, but again, something that was the need-of-the-hour.
With the top-order crashing out for eleven (in all), the right-hander stayed put on a slow wicket much like a student who puts the head down to focus for hours before a final exam. Ultimately, she’d soldier on for 100 deliveries to touch 57, which yet again brought South Africa home. Something the side desperately needed, it was yet again, something the Pretoria-hailing batter was willing to offer along with that winning smile.
What’s changed about Mignon du Preez career are the talents that play around her. What hasn’t is her batting’s purpose, one that’s for the team’s cause. That Wolvaardt, arguably the best player of the cover drive, is coming into her own is great news as is the rise of a Tasmin Brits and newfound Anne Bosch. But one’s glad to find a constant battler for South Africa holding fort all throughout. The one who shoulders the task of run-scoring alongside Luus, Lee, van Niekerk, and Kapp. The one who offers guidance and support to Wolvaardt, Bosch, and them all.
She’s the unwavering pendulum around which one can straddle, glide, gloat and endure. She’s the answer to the troubles the Proteas face, the one who can get it cured.
Mignon currently stands next 5,304 white-ball cricket runs. Here’s to many more in 2022.