It was a question of 'short in stature, but not short at heart' when the Malawi Netball team took to the Heartfelt Arena against the gangling Proteas of South Africa during the finals of the four-nation Netball Diamond Challenge 2012 in South Africa.
The Queens narrowly lost 47- 43 to come back home with a silver medal, a result that may compromise Malawi's status as the number one netballing team in Africa and fifth in the world. South Africa won R100,000 (K3,2 million) for winning the tournament.
Saturday's match, which was monitored on Super Sport 7 and attracted a mammoth crowd, was a rematch of Friday's encounter between the two sides in which the Queens emerged 47-42 victors in yet another battle of the
op two teams in Africa.
However, the two netball rivals had to meet again in the final because the round robin format adopted by tournament organisers dictates that teams that accumulate more points tussle it out in the final.
The Queens booked their place in the final after registering a winning streak over Zambia, Botswana, and the hosts South Africa.
The Proteas, on the other hand, rode over Zambia and Botswana.
Just like Friday, when they led South Africa 12-10 in the first quarter, the Queens were on song again, leading the Proteas 9-3 in the first quarter. Led by goal shooter Mwawi Kumwenda, the Queens maintained the tempo in the second quarter, as they led South Africa 24-23.
But, while the narrow margin should have served as a warning shot to Queens' coach Griffin Saenda, it seemed like his pep talk during the halftime break had no impact on the Queens' performance, as they went on to surrender their first and second-quarter leads.
The Proteas, who had upped their game by adapting well to Malawi's fast play, took a 29-26 lead in the third-quarter, a position they never surrendered up to the wire. They went on to beat their bitter rivals 47-43, effectively becoming the de facto champions for the debut Netball Diamond Challenge 2012.
However, in the end, it was a battle of baskets between Malawi's Kumwenda and the Proteas Chrisna Bootha, who has just been recalled to the national team.