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South Africa pip England in humdinger, set up final date with Australia

Shabnim Ismail (3-22) dented England’s powerplay charge and later Ayabonga Khaka (4 for 29) provided the finishing touches

South Africa sealed their first-ever final berth in Women’s T20 World Cup history with a scintillating allround display to pip England by six runs in the final-over thriller at Newlands in Cape Town on Friday (February 24).

Fifties from openers Tazmin Brits (68) and Laura Wolvaardt (53), and a late cameo from Marizanne Kapp (27* off 13) propelled South Africa to a competitive 164/4 but it looked tad under with the kind of start England openers made in the chase. However, Shabnim Ismail (3-27) dented their powerplay charge and Ayabonga Khaka (4 for 29) later starred in a fatal collapse of 4 for 8 from England, keeping them to 158/8 in reply and setting up the host nation’s final date with defending champions Australia.

Unchanged from their previous encounter, and having opted to bat first with the intention of putting a defendable score on the board, the South African openers were not able to get the kind of start they would have hoped for. With 21 dots in the first-four overs, that included just a solitary boundary, the home side were cautious in approach. Wolvaardt then switched gears fifth over onwards, taking on off-spinner Charlie Dean with a lofted six to long-off, and Brits joined in the next as the home side finished the powerplay with a decent recovery to 37/0.

The middle-overs was a very productive phase. The duo raised their third half-century stand of the World Cup by the end of the eight over and upped the ante soon after. Wolvaardt reached her second successive half-century in the World Cup, off 42 balls, with her lofted drive through the covers off Sophie Ecclestone but the left-armer had her revenge in the same over, inducing a leading edge that was taken comfortably at point.

The partnership was broken at 96 in the 14th over, and the well-set Brits took charge as she smacked 6, 6, 4 off Sarah Glenn to give South Africa a much-needed boost. The last of those boundaries also took Brits to her second fifty in as many games, in 43 balls. Lauren Bell returned in the 18th over to send back the dangerous Brits on 68 (55 balls) and Ecclestone’s three-run double-wicket over dented South Africa’s momentum significantly when they lost hard-hitting Chloe Tryon and Nadine de Klerk cheaply.

Kapp stepped up though, dispatching the waist-high full toss from Katherine Sciver-Brunt to fine leg before closing the final over with back-to-back boundaries. The 66 runs South Africa stole in the last six overs gave them a solid score on a used pitch but England weren’t going down without a tough fight.

In fact, for the first 16 overs, it didn’t look like England were going down at all. Sophia Dunkley and Danni Wyatt wasted no time in getting going in the 165-run chase. The opening pair launched a flurry of boundaries in the powerplay – the highlight of which was Dunkley hitting a hat-trick of them off Nonkululeko Mlaba that helped breach the 50-run mark in the fifth over itself. Ismail, however, sucked a bit of the momentum out of England’s blistering start with twin strikes in the final powerplay over. Aided by some stunning fielding from Brits at midwicket, the South African pacer ended Dunkley’s superlative 16-ball cameo of 28 first ball and then handing Alice Capsey a second-ball duck.

Wyatt and Nat Sciver-Brunt joined hands at 53/2 and kept at least a boundary an over coming until the drinks break to help England keep up with the asking-rate. However, the break brought a crucial breakthrough for South Africa. Brits was involved in a third successive dismissal as she put in a diving effort to pouch Wyatt’s pull at short fine, ending the opener’s 30-ball knock on 34.

Heather Knight (31 off 25) broke the shackles after a couple of quiet overs, lofting Chloe Tryon over extra cover for England’s first six of the match. Her 47-run partnership with Nat kept England in the hunt right until the death overs. The 100 came up in the 14th over and the English vice-captain took Ismail for a 14-run over soon after, reducing the equation down to 34 required off 24.

But just as England seemed to be cruising, de Klerk returned for a game-changing over when she had Nat toe-ending a full-toss to Brits at long-on. Khaka hammered home the advantage in the next over, dismissing Amy Jones, Ecclestone and Katherine as England slipped to 140/7 from a rather comfortable 132/3. Knight, who witnessed the wicket procession at the other end, slammed Kapp for a six straight down the ground in a 12-run penultimate over but Ismail knocked out her leg pole to dash England’s faint hopes of getting the 13 they needed in the last six balls.

Brief scores: South Africa 164/4 in 20 overs (Tazmin Brits 68, Laura wolvaardt 53; Sophie Ecclestone 3-22) beat England 158/8 in 20 overs (Nat Sciver-Brunt 40; Ayabonga Khaka 4-29, Shabnim Ismail 3-27) by 6 runs.

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