Wolvaardt's 27-ball 41 goes in vain; Australia enter sixth T20 World Cup final

Kaushiik Paul
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Australia look to 'bounce' back against Sri Lanka in Perth

Australia players celebrate a wicket. © ICC

Laura Wolvaardt’s valiant unbeaten 41 off 27 balls wasn’t enough as South Africa lost to Australia by five runs in a thrilling rain-truncated semi-final at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday (March 5). It was the second time South Africa had reached the last four of a T20 World Cup while for Australia, they will be playing in the final for record sixth time in the seven editions of the tournament. They will take on India in the summit clash on Sunday (March 8) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Chasing a revised target of 98 runs in 13 overs to book a date with India, South Africa were in all sorts of trouble as they were reduced to 24 for the loss three wickets in the fifth over. The centurion against Thailand, Lizelle Lee, was the first to go holing out to Ashleigh Gardner off Sophie Molineux for 10 before skipper Dane van Niekerk was cleaned up by Megan Schutt for 12. Delissa Kimmince then dismissed Mignon du Preez for a duck to put South Africa in more trouble.

Wolvaardt and Sune Luus (21) then tried their best with a 47-run fourth-wicket partnership before the latter was dismissed by Schutt to seemingly kill the game. Chloe Tryon, known for her hard-hitting in the WBBL, also faltered before the 20-year-old Wolvardt hit a range of boundaries to keep South Africa in the hunt. Needing 19 runs off the last over bowled by Jess Jonassen, the Proteas could manage 13 to lose the encounter narrowly.

After the India-England semi-final was abandoned due to rain, it poured once again during the innings break of the second semi-final, leaving the Proteas to bat for only 13 overs.

Earlier, South Africa's bowlers applied the brakes on the Australian middle-order before skipper Meg Lanning rescued them with the bat, hitting an unbeaten run-a-ball 49 to take the hosts to a respectable 134 for the loss of five wickets in 20 overs. The score could have been different had Trisha Chetty not missed a stumping chance to dismiss Lanning off the bowling of Tryon in the 14th over.

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The defending champions started the way they have been in this tournament with openers Beth Mooney and Alyssa Healy taking on the opposition bowlers on before Ayabonga Khaka dismissed the latter for 18 in the fifth over. But the wicket didn’t deter Australia as Mooney, along with skipper Lanning, carried on the onslaught as Australia reached 63 for the loss of Healy’s wicket in eight overs.

It looked like the hosts were edging closer to yet another 150-plus score (189/1 vs Bangladesh & 155/5 vs New Zealand) at one point in time. But things were not meant to be as Australia lost three quick wickets in a space of three runs to go down from 68 for one to 71 for four in the 11 over, thanks to Nadine de Klerk, who came in for Marizanne Kapp for the match.

The 20-year-old right-arm seamer ran through the Australia middle-order as she ripped through Mooney’s stumps before forcing Ashleigh Gardner to edge one behind to Chetty.

Things became a bit slow for Australia thereafter as the Proteas bowlers strangled the opposition. De Klerk added another to her tally when she clean bowled Rachael Haynes for 17, thus finishing with figures of 4-0-19-3. However, Lanning took up the responsibility towards the end taking 18 runs of Khaka’s third over as Australia scored 40 runs in the last five overs to go past the 130-run mark.

Brief scores: Australia 134/5 in 20 overs (Meg Lanning 49*; Nadine de Klerk 3/19) beat South Africa 92/5 in 13 overs (Laura Wolvaardt 41*; Megan Schutt 2/17) by five runs (DLS method). PoTM: Meg Lanning