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'I have no words,' says ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year Lizelle Lee

Tiisetso Malepa Sports reporter
A file photo of Lizelle Lee in action for the Momentum Proteas.
A file photo of Lizelle Lee in action for the Momentum Proteas.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Hard-hitting SA batter Lizelle Lee was lost for words when she was rewarded by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for her consistency and named women’s ODI cricketer of the year.

The Ermelo-born right-hander, who turns 30 in April, was in a league of her own in the 50-over format in 2021 as she finished the year as the highest run-scorer.

She smashed 632 runs in 11 matches at an average of 90.28 with one century and five half-centuries.

Lee beat England opening batter Tammy Beaumont, West Indies all-rounder Hayley Matthews and Pakistan’s Fatima Sana to the award.

“I have no words, to be honest with you. I did not expect this,” said the Momentum Proteas star batter.

“It is a privilege just to be nominated and I think this award could have gone to anyone, so I am honoured. It means a lot to me.”

Lee thanked her Proteas coaches and teammates, parents and her wife Tanja Cronje for support.

“They have been amazing and it would not have been possible without them. There are so many people I can give credit to who have played a role.”

Lee was consistent and aggressive throughout the year and was particularly destructive during the tour of India in March as SA romped to a 4-1 ODI series triumph.

She finished the series in Lucknow as the top run-scorer with 288 runs that included a classy century and two half-centuries and was named player of the series.

Lee registered her highest ODI career score of 132 not out from 131 balls in the third match of the series against India, but that was not her highlight innings despite steering the Proteas to a six run victory.

“The innings to look back on, look, that is a tough one, but there were a few that I thought stood out for me,” she said in her acceptance speech.

Lee said her career-best century against India was special, but it was her unbeaten half-century [91 not out off 127 balls] in the opening match against the West Indies in Antigua and Barbuda in September, where she also finished as the top run-scorer in the five-match ODI series which SA also won 4-1.

“The half-century I scored against the West Indies, in the West Indies, I think that was in tough conditions and I scored 90 something not out.

“That was probably one of the best because I thought it was a hard-fought game.”

Lee retained her top position as the number one ranked batter in women’s ODI and her exploits also helped SA to second in the ICC women’s ODI rankings.

Lee and the Proteas will hope to carry their winning form to the Women’s Cricket World Cup to be hosted by New Zealand from March 4 to April 3.

The team will start their final preparations for the tournament with an inbound ODI tour by the West Indies that has been revised from a five to four-match series from January 25 to February 6.

The series, which will be played in a biosecure environment (BSE) at the Wanderers Stadium, starts on Tuesday with a warm-up match between the SA XI team and the West Indies XI.

Lee will launch an assault for another season of domination, particularly in a World Cup year, when the first ball of the series is bowled at 2pm on Friday.

The second match is on Monday January 31, the third on Thursday February 3, with the  final ODI on Sunday February 6.

TimesLIVE


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