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Lizelle Lee strives for ‘more consistency’ in bid to be among the best in the world

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Lizelle Lee described her match-winning 132* as “one of the best innings I’ve played”, but credited South Africa’s bowlers for setting up the win that gave them a 2-1 lead in the five-match series in India.

“It’s surreal. It still hasn’t sunk in,” Lee said of her 131-ball knock. “But I have to give credit to the bowlers. India were on track to score 300 and they pulled it back for us.”

South Africa won by six runs in a DLS-determined finish because of rain, and it was due in large measure to India scoring only 55 in the last ten overs and 27 in the last five, as Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka, Tumi Sekhukhune and Marizanne Kapp kept things tight.

Had that not been the case, the unseasonal rain might have changed things. “We didn’t think it was going to rain. As far as we knew, it was supposed to be hot and sunny the whole day so we didn’t expect that,” Lee said.

Lee’s well-paced knock that showed off a range of strokes made the difference in the end, and the opening batter said she hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary on the day. “I never change the way I bat, whether we are chasing or setting total,” she said. “At the end of the day, if it’s a bad ball, it’s a bad ball. It’s just to make sure I get boundaries with bad balls and singles with good balls.”

Some of the shots Lee played – like the bunt off a waist-high full toss, Poonam Yadav’s first ball – were off poor deliveries. Others, like the outside edge past the wicketkeeper off Mansi Joshi that scurried away for four, were fortuitous. But, largely, Lee’s was an innings made up of well-placed and beautifully timed strokes; she spotted gaps in the field, especially in the fine-leg region, and brought her power to the fore.

She now has more ODI centuries than any of her colleagues – three – but feels she needs to produce more big knocks more often to be regarded as among the best. “I am not one of the better opening batters [in the world] but it’s something that I strive to be,” she said. “I have to be more consistent to be up there. Hopefully I can get more consistent.”

On this tour, Lee has two unbeaten innings in two winning chases, which already bodes well for her ambitions to contribute regularly. She lies second on South Africa’s overall ODI run-scorers’ list, 408 runs behind Mignon du Preez, with whom she shared a 97-run stand today. “Mignon played an excellent innings and it just shows that partnerships are key in situations like this,” Lee said. “Mignon is full of confidence, she is hitting the ball extremely well and her best is yet to come. She is one of the most senior players in the game and she showed that today.”

So is Lee, and she takes her responsibility as part of the leadership seriously, especially as this is South Africa’s first tour since the start of the pandemic. “As a senior player, you have to make sure everyone is okay. It’s very different at the moment and there’s not a lot we can do off the field.”

While the players are largely confined to their rooms outside of practice and matches, Lee is using the time to put in extra hours towards her degree because, “I still have a few assignments to do before the tour ends.” She has nine more days to get them done, during which South Africa will play two more ODIs and three T20Is. “The girls are working extremely hard even though it’s also tough playing back-to-back games with only one or two days in between. It’s a new world but we are just happy to do our jobs.”

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