CAPE TOWN - The Proteas Women’s team are the only team in the world to have three bowlers ranked in the ICC’s top 10 on the ODI list.
Marizanne Kapp is at No 2 and Shabnim Ismail two spots down at No 4. But who is the third?
Is it captain Dane van Niekerk or fellow leg-spinner Sune Luus?
Not quite. It’s in fact it’s Ayabonga Khaka, who sits in a hugely-impressive eighth spot above giants of the women’s game such as Australia’s Ellyse Perry.
Khaka is a metronomic seam bowler that enters the attack just after new-ball duo Kapp and Ismail have unleashed their swing and pace on the opposition. The 29-year-old has been a beacon of consistency with her positively obnoxious lines and lengths, the ball seemingly tethered on the end of a string as she relentlessly probes the space just outside off stump.
She performs her duties so diligently, and without any fuss, that it often goes unnoticed outside of the inner team circles. But it remains an integral part of the team achieving success, just like her 2/13 from 7.2 overs was in setting up a comprehensive nine-wicket victory over the West Indies in the second ODI on Friday.
It was virtually identical figures to her 2/17 from 7.4 overs in the first ODI a few days earlier.
What is the secret to Khaka’s consistency?
“I love to bowl. I am always bowling at home. I do my pre-tour work at home. When I go on tours it’s about adapting to the conditions. I am working so hard and I am glad that it is showing each and every day,” Khaka told the media from Antigua.
Although Kapp and Ismail are the headline grabbers within the Proteas bowling unit, the duo are fully aware of the importance of Khaka’s role in maintaining the pressure after their opening burst. The seamers are a tightly-knit group, illustrated by a picture Kapp posted last week with her, Ismail and Khaka in a tight embrace and the tag line #fastbowlersunion.
Khaka certainly appreciates the duo’s support, and is comfortable that they all have unique skills.
“I think they are top class bowlers and you always learning from them. When they have the ball they lead, and us as the other bowlers, we also want to make an impact. They make it easy for us to execute what we need to execute. We all different types of bowlers in that we have different skills. At the end of the day we are great as a bowling unit,” she said.
Having been the dominant team in the series thus far, and full value for their 2-0 lead, the Proteas will look to close out the series in the third ODI on Monday.