Here's a brainteaser leading to the ICC Women's Twenty20 World Cup semifinals in Australia.
How come the White Ferns trounced South Africa 3-1 in the five-match series on New Zealand soil — with the fifth one abandoned due to rain — but it's the Proteas who are padding up for the playoffs against Australia in Sydney on Thursday?
No doubt that requires moving past the obvious — the Kiwis were in pool A and the Proteas in pool B so their paths didn't cross.
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But there's definitely more to why the two teams find themselves in markedly different moods. White Ferns Captain Sophie Devine's side lost twice — to India and Australia — while South Africa counterpart Dane van Niekerk's lot were undefeated. Their final pool match against West Indies was abandoned due to rain, leaving them to claim the top rung above England.
Like Australia, England — who play top qualifiers India in the other semifinal — had lost their openings encounter. Pool A was the pool of death compared with pool B where Thailand were in the mix and the Windies horribly out of form.
So could the White Ferns have progressed had they been in pool B?
Therein lies the clues to the brainteaser for Devine and her troops who will start nit-picking amid the "crappy feeling" of missing out again.
Interestingly enough the clue isn't in the T20 series dominance here but in the ODI 3-0 whitewash South Africa had inflicted on them in January.
For all anyone knows, the White Ferns were foxing it and didn't rate the ODIs because of the impending T20 World Cup across the ditch.
Van Niekerk, on the other hand, had made it explicitly clear their focus was on the ODIs and not the T20s. Whether it was because the Kiwis were not on their route to the playoffs is possible or they didn't want the rest of the world to know how good they can be.
What is certain was her disclosure during a post-match interview the Proteas didn't wish to peak in the most contracted format before the world cup.
It's not a coincidence the tourists were adept at the limited-overs format and, seemingly, it's rubbing off on their world cup campaign. That is not to say they will beat the Ockers against gargantuan odds. Neither is it to imply they are incapable of doing the unthinkable, should all facets of their game come together.
The pressure is on marketing cricket — regardless of whether it's in the male domain or the female one — in the T20 format.
The support during the women's one has been great with most venues humming.
Perhaps what sticks out most is that families are coming out in droves to what seems to be projected as a carnival atmosphere.
Nevertheless, that's where the romantic notions give way to reality. Organisers and sponsors will beam but teams cannot let "The Big Dance" distract them.
The turnouts are dependent on the hosts staying alive. It became blatantly obvious — amid fears inclement weather was going to have an impact on the Australia v Sri Lanka match in Perth — that umpires had to persist with the game despite cutting rain at the WACA, where the hosts won with three balls to spare.
Just as it mattered in the Rugby World Cup, it's important nations apart from Australia and England lift the T20 silverware for women's cricket to not only grow but become a global festival.
Devine is correct in alluding to how the White Ferns aren't far off. What is hard to ignore for the playoff-shy Kiwis is the pattern of exits in the ODI and T20 formats since 2018.
With the absence of red ball, the staple diet for the women here is ODIs. Attributes such as mindset, the discipline of bowling dot balls and taking a measured bat to 20-over innings stem from the 50-over format.
Where Devine goes off the tangent is in juxtaposing the money and resources of powerhouses with what the Kiwis can cough up.
Her perception of closing that sliver of a gap — if there was parity with the factors mentioned above — just doesn't cut it.
Akin to the Proteas, the preparation and build up must begin with the limited-overs format. Getting excited about lusty sixes and wicked slow bouncers at the height of a televised domestic Super Smash campaign cannot possibly be a gauge for selection.
It was an anthem for domestic oppositions to try to talk up their chances of beating "a loaded" Wellington Blaze who smashed myriad records.
It's great that players can carve a niche in lucrative competitions abroad, especially those who returned from the women's Big Bash in Australia where they faced or played alongside other elite internationals to become familiar with their strengths and weaknesses.
However, the future of any competition, in any code, lies in the spread of talent within a country for not just nail-biting results for the fan base and sponsors but also bringing the best out of individuals. The inability of a quality player, such as Suzie Bates, to convert in T20 speaks volumes.
That a batswoman sends the ball into orbit or a bowler takes a bumper number of wickets isn't an accurate yardstick.
Consequently that gap maybe an illusion, just as the results are against India and Australia.
On the bright side, newbies such as Rosemary Mair, of Napier, came away wiser for the experience.