South Africa’s Lizelle Lee adjudged as ICC women’s ODI Cricketer of the Year

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South Africa opener Lizelle Lee on Monday was adjudged as the ICC women’s ODI Cricketer of the Year. Lizelle beat the challenge from Englands Tammy Beaumont, West Indies’ Hayley Matthews and Pakistan’s Fatima Sana to be the first player from South Africa to win the award.

“I didn’t expect this. Its a massive honour. It’s amazing and very privileged and honoured to receive the award. It means a lot to me. There are so many people I can give credit to. My family has been my number one supporter, my parents and wife (Tanja) and I have to give credit to the coaching staff, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t even be able to play,” said Lizelle in her acceptance speech.

Lizelle was in a league of her own in ODIs in 2021, finishing as the highest run-scorer in the format, scoring 632 runs in 11 matches at an average of 90.28 with one century and five half-centuries.

The start wasn’t ideal for Lizelle, who got out for a duck in the first ODI against Pakistan. But she came back strongly with two scores of 40-plus and played a vital role in South Africa’s sweep of the series.

She was unstoppable on the tour of India in March, racking up big runs in the Proteas’ 4-1 series win. With 288 runs, including a hundred and two fifties, she ended the series as the highest run-scorer and was awarded the Player of the Series. She carried her great form over to the series against West Indies as well and was once again the top run-getter in the series.

But her best performance was against India in the third match of the series in Lucknow, notching up the highest individual ODI score of her career. In South Africa’s chase of 249, Lee mixed caution with aggression and kept building partnerships, first with Laura Wolvaardt and then with Lara Goodall.

She kept scoring boundaries regularly and soon brought up her fifty. Lizelle then strung a 97-run partnership with Mignon du Preez, during the course of which she brought up her third ODI century. It looked like they would take South Africa home, but India came back into the game by picking up two wickets.

With rain around the corner, Lizelle hit three fours and a six in three overs to put South Africa ahead of the DLS par score. South Africa eventually ended up winning the match by 6 runs on the DLS method, thanks to her stunning 132 not out off 131 balls.

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