South Africa stole a historic victory and made it to their first-ever T20 World Cup final by defeating England by six runs in the second semifinal at the Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town on Friday (February 25). England were looking comfortable in the chase of 164, with Natalie Sciver-Brunt (40) building on the 53-run opening stand between Danielle Wyatt and Sophia Dunkley. But things took a turn in the last four overs courtesy of a collapse.
For South Africa, it would be a step closer to their first-ever ICC trophy across men’s and women’s cricket. To do it at home, it would be a lot more special and would bring joy to so many people in the host nation. For England, it would be another chance to establish their position as one of the best sides in the world, after having a not-very-successful period last year.
Emulating the winning side Australia from the first semi-final, South African captain Sune Luus chose to bat first after winning the crucial toss. Laura Wolvaardt and Tazmin Brits gave their team a steady start, scoring 37 runs off the powerplay, as Heather Knight tried five different bowling options.
The pair continued to score at just over six an over till the midway point, but then decided that they had shown enough patience. The trend of batters bringing up a half-century and then getting dismissed shortly after in the knockouts of this World Cup continued with Laura Wolvaardt as she followed the fate of Beth Mooney and Harmanpreet Kaur in the 14th over.
Brits took over the charge and hit two sixes and a four off Sarah Glenn the very next over and brought up her second half-century in a row. She kept adding runs with Marizanne Kapp at a brisk rate before getting caught off Lauren Bell with two overs to go.
The penultimate overs saw Sophie Ecclestone removing big hitters Chloe Tryon and Nadine de Klerk but Kapp hit three boundaries off Katherine Sciver-Brunt to help South Africa finish with a big over of 18 runs.
Needing 165 to win, England came out all guns blazing. The first over from Nonkululeko Mlaba got them 11 runs. Shabnim Ismail, Kapp and Ayabonga Khaka all too leaked runs and when Mlaba came back in the fifth over, Dunkley hit her for three consecutive boundaries.
England were 53 for none after five overs when Ismail got the wicket of Dunkley on 28. Brits’ brilliance was not over for the day as she dived to her right and held on to the ball to combine with Ismail for the second time in the over to dismiss a batter, this time Alice Capsey. It was a fiery over from Ismail, with the pacer touching 128 kmph on the speed gun with the final delivery.
The wickets did not stop the flow of runs for England as Wyatt and Natalie Sciver-Brunt kept finding the boundaries with ease. At the halfway mark, England were 84 for 2.
The drinks break gave the hosts a chance to regroup and they struck straightaway. Brits was involved once again as Khaka removed Wyatt. The wicket got the crowd going and the scoring rate kept going down until the 16th over, when Sciver-Brunt hit three boundaries off Ismail to put England ahead again. But she gave her wicket to de Klerk in the next over, a catch taken by Brits again.
That got England tumbling down. Khaka took three wickets in the 18th over and it left England needing 25 runs off the last two overs. Skipper Knight tried to bring back things under control with a six off Kapp. But when she found herself on strike with 11 needed off four deliveries, she had no option but to swing the bat hard. Swing she did, but failed to connect and the length ball from Ismail went crashing into the stumps.
South Africa had done what not many had imagined before the tournament. Sune Luus’ team had made it to the final of the home World Cup.
Brief Scores: South Africa 164/4 (Tazmin Brits 68, Laura Wolvaardt 53; Sophie Ecclestone 3/22) beat England 158/8 (Natalie Sciver-Brunt 40, Danielle Wyatt 34; Ayabonga Khaka 4/29) by 6 runs.
Player of the Match: Tazmin Brits