Loughborough Lightning KSL feature on Mignon du Preez

Loughborough Lightning KSL feature on Mignon du Preez
Loughborough Lightning KSL feature on Mignon du Preez
©@LightningKSL
 

After New Zealand’s Sophie Devine and the Australians Rachael Haynes and Ellyse Villani contributed so much to Loughborough Lightning’s run to the final of the Kia Super League in 2018, this season’s overseas trio at the Haslegrave Ground knew they had a tough act to follow.

The three Antipodean stars scored almost two thirds of Lighting’s runs, while seam-bowling all-rounder Devine was also a major force with the ball, her wickets tally of 16 bettered only by spin sensation Kirstie Gordon. 

Devine’s explosive qualities with the bat always made for excitement, the renowned big-hitter racking up 19 sixes over the season. Only Western Storm’s Smriti Mandhana cleared the ropes more often.

The Kiwi’s late withdrawal through injury this year left Lightning with a big hole to fill in their batting line-up and the pressure was on Hayley Matthews, Chamari Atapattu and Mignon du Preez.

If either was to pick up where Devine left off, it might have been expected that the powerful West Indies opener Matthews might be the one.  The experienced but less naturally less aggressive Du Preez was probably seen as the least likely candidate.

Yet it is the 30-year-old former South African captain who has taken up the mantle. She goes into the final three rounds of the KSL regular season as Lightning’s leading run-scorer with 198 in seven matches at a strike rate of 137.50 and six maximums.

Given that her 12 sixes in Twenty20 internationals are spread across 91 matches, it is not difficult to see how she might even have surprised herself. She has been Lightning’s match-winner in two of their last three matches to boot, making 70 not out in last week’s key away victory against defending champions Surrey Stars and an unbeaten 38 in the home win over Yorkshire Diamonds, hitting the winning boundary in each.

“I’m not really known as a power hitter who clears the fence, more someone who looks to find the gaps by playing smart and running hard,” she said, in a modest self-appraisal.

“I’ve not always had the success I would have liked when I have been in a position to win matches, so it is nice to start doing it consistently.

“With the experience I have I think I should have done that a long time ago!

“It is something I have wanted to work on and make a difference and I think I am finally getting to that stage where I am doing it.

“To be getting into some form and helping to win games for the team is really special.”

A run of four wins in five matches has lifted Lightning to second place in the table, and although leaders Western Storm have put themselves out of reach in the race for top spot and automatic qualification for the final, a victory over Surrey Stars at the Haslegrave Ground on Friday afternoon (4pm) could be enough to ensure that Du Preez and her new teammates qualify for the semi-final by finishing in the top three.

“Winning the last three has given us some momentum going into the final games and we definitely think we can get to finals day,” she said.

Should Lightning make it to Hove on Sunday week (September 1), it would be a second appearance there for Du Preez, who was part of the Southern Vipers team that finished runners-up to Storm in the 2017 competition.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for me to come over here and play in this competition again,” Du Preez said. “It is exciting to see how the women’s game is developing globally.

“The KSL opens up opportunities for girls to continue to grow and get others excited and get them into the sport.

“It’s always a pleasure and a huge honour to play here.  It is something different being at Loughborough but I have really enjoyed my stay here so far.”