Mignon Du Preez marked her 100th T20I appearance with a match-winning performance against England
Du Preez hit back-to-back boundaries off Katherine Brunt’s final over to steer South Africa to their first-ever T20 World Cup win over England
Du Preez is one of three South African players alongside Dane van Niekerk and Shabnim Ismail to play in all seven editions of the tournament
Needing nine runs off the final over to beat England at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup for the first time, there was no more fitting a batter to hit the decisive runs to clinch a historic win.
After 11 years of hurt, every South African on the field knew how much the victory meant — but for Du Preez more than most, it’s been a long time coming.
Making her debut 13 years ago as a 17-year-old, Du Preez became the first South African reach a century of T20 internationals in Perth — and to mark the occasion she broke new ground in more ways than one.
Before Sunday's game Du Preez had hit only 19 sixes in T20Is and she won't forget number 20 in a hurry, clearing backward square off Katherine Brunt to seal the win.
“There was a time when I thought it actually just went up,” she said. “I kind of held my breath for a little bit.
“I saw the fielder look up, her eyes lit up and then I just saw it keep going.
“That really took the pressure off knowing that we then basically just needed the one off three deliveries.
“Once you realise as a batter that you’re going have more bad days than good, you just need to enjoy those good ones when it’s your day.
“Turning 30 has helped me grow a lot more. Retirement is inevitable, so I just want to make sure that during these next few years, I have fun.”
“I’ve played enough games in my career to be able to step up in crucial moments and I think to finally do that and contribute to the team is really special.”
Tasked with the responsibility to take her team over the line in nail-bitingly tight chase, Du Preez’s performance was carved out of years of experience at elite level.
The 30-year-old is South Africa’s all-time highest-run scorer in the 20-over format, amassing a total of 1684 since making her debut against New Zealand in 2007.
But her T20I career hasn't just been a tale of runs, runs and more runs, there's also been some hurt on the way.
Du Preez, a former T20I and ODI captain, knows the pain of losing to England better than most, at the helm when South Africa crashed out to England in their first-ever T20 World Cup semi-final in 2014.
Add the 2017 World Cup semi-final defeat to England into the memory bank and revenge suddenly feels a whole lot sweeter for Du Preez and co. If their opening performance is anything to go by, they've got the nerve to go far.
“This is the seventh T20 World Cup I’ve played in and we never got close before. To put that behind us and move forward is really exciting,” she added.
“We’ve always known how strong we are and that within the team we have match-winners but we had a monkey on our back.
“This will give us the boost we need to go one step further than the semi-finals and take a World Cup trophy home. We know we’re good enough, we just have to play well and enjoy it.”