Pendle netballer Natalie Haythornthwaite leads the England Roses to Test series success in South Africa

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 01: Natalie Haythornthwaite of England and Shadine van der Merwe of South Africa during the 3rd Spar Challenge, International Netball Test Series match between South Africa and England at Bellville Velodrome on December 01, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 01: Natalie Haythornthwaite of England and Shadine van der Merwe of South Africa during the 3rd Spar Challenge, International Netball Test Series match between South Africa and England at Bellville Velodrome on December 01, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

Barrowford’s Natalie Haythornthwaite captained England to victory in their Test series against South Africa in Cape Town.

The Vitality Roses’ wing attack, who turns 27 next week, guided the Commonwealth Games champions to a 2-1 success over their hosts under new head coach Jess Thirlby, who succeeded Tracey Neville this summer.

Back-to-back wins in the capital, which will host the 2023 World Cup, sealed the deal for the new look England side at the Bellville Velodrome.

The tourists set the ball rolling with a 63-58 series opening win in extra time. They led 28-23 at half-time, but the Proteas stormed back, with the scores tied at 50-50 after 60 minutes.

However, The Roses, ranked third in the world, held their nerve to overcome the team they beat to bronze at July’s World Cup.

England then secured the series when carving out a 59-53 win in what was the 60th meeting between the two sides the following day.

“The thing I’m most pleased with is the improved performance,” said Thirlby.

“It was great, quick learning from last night into tonight. We were tactically a bit smarter.

“I thought the changes had a great impact tonight.”

England opened up a four-goal lead at the end of the first quarter, a cushion that was only shortened by one at the halfway point. South Africa scored three back-to-back goals to take a temporary lead early in the third quarter, but England kept their composure and led 43-41 at the whistle.

The Roses dominated the final quarter and, in the end, ran out comfortable 
winners.

England lost the final episode, but it was a dead rubber where Thirlby was able to experiment with more combinations.

It was already job done for The Roses, who fell the wrong side of a 54-48 scoreline in the conclusion to the Test series.