This article was first written for and published by the Roar.
When Laura Wolvaardt from the Adelaide Strikers is batting, she is hard to miss.
Not only does the South African international have a mane of curly hair, but she has a slightly unconventional batting stance which sees her very animated and moving the bat as she waits for the bowler to bowl their delivery.
“It makes me feel ready when I stand like that,” said Wolvaardt.
“I also have a lot of hair, so it probably makes me stand out a bit.”
The other thing that has made Wolvaardt stand out this year is her form with the bat.
After the Strikers first eight matches in WBBL06, Wolvaardt leads the team for the number of runs scored with 237 at an average of 33.85. With a high score of 68 runs, in several games this year Wolvaardt has been crucial to the Strikers amassing strong totals which their talented bowling group including the likes of Amanda-Jade Wellington, Megan Schutt, Tahlia McGrath and Darcie Brown are able to defend.
For those who watched Wolvaardt in the WBBL for the Brisbane Heat in WBBL04, some may be surprised at just how much the 21-year-old has dominated the competition this year. In the 2018-19 season, in nine innings, Wolvaardt scored 67 runs at an average of 14.
However, since then, Wolvaardt has worked hard in the South African set up to improve her performances as a T20 batter.
“It’s no secret that I have struggled with T20 cricket in the past,” said Wolvaardt.
“I would get very anxious if I didn’t get off to a very quick start like my other opener Lizelle Lee who just smashes it. I just needed some time to learn to build my innings.
“I’ve done some work in the gym too, so I’m definitely stronger than I was in those first two seasons of the WBBL.”
At the moment, Wolvaardt is enjoying her cricket and is pleased it is coming together.
The first sign for women’s cricket fans that it was ‘coming together’ for Wolvaardt was in February this year when Wolvaardt was part of the South African Women’s team that came to Australia to contest the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup.
Whilst Wolvaardt generally opens the batting for South Africa, during the tournament she batted at number five and had a particularly memorable innings against Australia in the semi-finals where she scored 41 runs off just 27 balls. Whilst it wasn’t enough for South Africa to progress to the final on 8 March, it was some of the best cricket the South African women had played in many years.
In the past, a criticism of the South African women was that while they may have been a team of stars, as a team they were not coming together consistently.
“It was such an incredible tournament and the standard of cricket played was a real step up,” said Wolvaardt.
“As a team we played some great cricket and it was unfortunate we couldn’t go all the way. I’m hoping that our team can continue that momentum when we come together again.
“We definitely have a lot of match-winners in the team, but it was about finding that consistency and learning how to do it all together every game.”
Wolvaardt was rewarded for her performances during that tournament, winning several awards at the Cricket South Africa awards, including South Africa Cricketer of the Year and was also named in the T20 World Cup Team of the Tournament by the ICC.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the South African women have had very little opportunity to play together this year, but nine of them have travelled to Australia to compete in the WBBL.
Wolvaardt is grateful for teammates like Dane van Niekerk, Marizanne Kapp and Lizelle Lee who she looks out for when she is feeling homesick.
The Strikers next game is on Saturday against Wolvaardt’s old team, the Brisbane Heat. But before Wolvaardt turns her attention to that game she has an exam to complete on Thursday.
“It’s Animal and Plant diversity, which can be a little bit boring,” said Wolvaardt.
“I’m doing a Bachelor of Science and I want to do physiology next year as my major subject. That means you have do to all the basic biology in the first year which isn’t my favourite.”
The other tricky part is remaining focused, especially when the rest of the cricketers are enjoying the WBBL village.
“It’s been hard in between games to study and I’m usually tired after game day so I don’t do as much study as I should,” said Wolvaardt.
“I’ve made a lot of cool friends in the village, so it’s hard to study when you know they are out there having fun.
“I can’t wait to join them when I’m done.”