Sport

WOMEN’S CRICKET

Australia knock Proteas out of rain-soaked T20 Women’s World Cup semis

Australia knock Proteas out of rain-soaked T20 Women’s World Cup semis
Laura Wolvaardt of South Africa plays a shot during the Women's T20 World Cup semifinal match between Australia and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Australia. (Photo: EPA / Dan Himbrechts)

The Proteas were defeated by six runs in the second semifinal of the T20 Women’s World Cup when they took on the host nation and defending champions, Australia.

With two overs to go, South Africa’s captain, Dane van Niekerk sat in the dugout looking particularly pained. To have been a fly on the wall of her mind at that point would’ve been priceless. “So close yet so far. Is this how it ends, again? Where did it all go wrong?” would have been some of the thoughts undoubtedly racing through the skipper’s mind.

At that point, the Proteas needed 27 runs to book their place in the final and Australia had already obliterated South Africa’s top order.

Ultimately, despite Laura Wolvaardt’s (41 not out) best efforts, the Proteas fell six runs short of victory under the Duckworth Lewis Stern (DLS) method.

“I have to give credit to Australia. They restricted us and bowled really well, and yeah; we fell six short. To come short every time is difficult, but as a team, we win together and we lose together. We’re not a team that blames anything or anyone. It was in our hands, but unfortunately it wasn’t our year and it wasn’t our day,” said a visibly dejected Van Niekerk in her post-match interview.

Nine minutes was all that separated South Africa from booking their place at a first-ever International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup final and Australia being eliminated from the tournament in the cruellest of circumstances.

It had rained throughout the day in Sydney and the weather threatened to curtail the second semifinal as it had earlier rained out the first between India and England. India went through on the technicality of having finished first in their group, while England had finished second in theirs.

The same equation would have been used to separate the Proteas and Australia, with the Proteas advancing after having finished first in their group.

As it was, the rain –  which had started again after Australia finished their innings – ceased long enough for the Proteas to take to the field and attempt to chase down a revised total of 98 runs in 13 overs. They finished on 92 for five.

They fell into an early hole in that endeavour when the lethal trio of Lizelle Lee (10), Van Niekerk (12) and Mignon du Preez (0) all fell with only 24 on the board after 4.5 overs.

Sune Luus (21) and Wolvaardt tried to rebuild with a stand of 47 runs. However, the tight bowling of the reigning champions meant that 27 runs were needed off 10 balls when the former departed.

Earlier on, Australia had finished their innings with 134 for five, their captain Meg Lanning starring with an unbeaten 49.

The host nation had a brilliant start after being asked to bat first by Van Niekerk. They finished their power play with 48 having lost one wicket. But the Proteas fought back with three wickets in three overs between the ninth and twelfth overs.

Nadine de Klerk, in for the ailing Marizanne Kapp, was the destroyer in chief during that spell.

The all-rounder finished with impressive figures of three for 19 runs in her four overs, including sending the dangerous Beth Mooney back to the change room for 28. She also bowled a peach of a ball to send the timber tumbling and remove Rachel Haynes.

De Klerk was ably supported by Ayabonga Khaka and Nonkululeko Mlaba who picked up a wicket each. Shabnim Ismail, despite not picking up a wicket, kept things tight as usual.

Ultimately, that brilliant bowling display was not enough as Australia put on their own bowling exhibition to ensure that they keep their record of never having lost against the Proteas. The win also meant the Australians booked a sixth consecutive final spot.

This was the second time in three World Cups that South Africa had fallen at the semi-final stage. The same fate befell them at the 2017 edition. DM

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