Sport

T20 WORLD CUP SEMI

First-ever World Cup final for Proteas Women, thanks to a Brits masterclass

First-ever World Cup final for Proteas Women, thanks to a Brits masterclass
Shabnim Ismail of South Africa celebrates taking the wicket of Heather Knight of England at Newlands Cricket Ground on 24 February, 2023. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

South Africa will take on Australia in the final of the T20 World Cup, after the hosts edged England by six runs in the semi-final at Newlands.

The Proteas have shaken their semi-final hoodoo to make their first-ever World Cup final, after beating favourites England by six runs at Newlands Cricket Stadium, during the afternoon on Friday 24 February.

England were unbeaten in the tournament before their tight semi-final loss, while the Proteas scraped through to the semi-final on net-run rate, and have now beaten the odds to make the final.

 The home team will face the dominant Aussies in the final of the T20 World Cup on Sunday, 26 February.

Opening batter Tazmin Brits scored 68 off 55 deliveries, to help the Proteas to a highly competitive total of 164 for four – their highest total of the tournament. Brits also took four excellent catches in the field, to help dismiss England’s top four batters.

While Brits deserves the plaudits, there were a number of players who stood up at vital moments for the Proteas. England were cruising to the required total, and toward a place in the final, before a masterful bowling spell by Nadine de Klerk, an over containing three wickets by Ayabonga Khaka, and a superb fielding display by Anneke Bosch.

South Africa celebrate after winning the match during the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup semi-final between South Africa and England at Newlands. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

Slow start

England’s chase could not have gotten off to a better start in their pursuit of a record World Cup knockout chase of 164. And they barely had to work for their runs. In the first two overs, the Proteas conceded five wides, a four off a misfield, as well as four byes. And England were merrily on 21 for no loss, without taking any risks.

Because of the free runs, England opening batters Danni Wyatt and Sophia Dunkley were afforded an opportunity to open their shoulders with a decent score on the board, as the pair saw England to 52 for no loss after five overs – going at well above the required rate.

But South Africa’s talismanic opening bowler Shabnim Ismail had the final say in the powerplay, with a fiery over – crossing the 120 km/h mark in five balls – of two wickets for two runs, to stunt the England chase.

Dunkley was the first dismissal, trying to go over the top, but only managing to lob the ball to Brits at mid-on.

Two balls later, Ismail bowled a dangerous bouncer at Alice Capsey’s head, which the 19-year-old could only sky. The ball looked to land safely but Brits stuck out her left hand to complete an incredible catch. “I just reacted and it stuck. They moved me everywhere in the field, and the ball kept following me,” said Brits about her fielding after the match.

Tazmin Brits of South Africa celebrates scoring a half-century during the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup semi-final between South Africa and England at Newlands Cricket Ground on February 24, 2023 in Cape Town. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

From there, England’s leading batter Natalie Sciver-Brunt and Wyatt put on a steady partnership of 32 off 30 deliveries, to help England to 84 for two after 10 overs.

At that stage, England needed just 80 runs off the last 10 overs, with eight wickets in hand.

The dangerous Wyatt fell in the 11th over for 34 off 30 deliveries, bowled by Khaka and caught by Brits. While De Klerk was on from the other end, bowling cutters to restrict England.

“Credit to South Africa, they bowled brilliantly. They had a simple plan to bowl slower balls, and into the wicket, which seemed to work,” said England captain Heather Knight, after the match.

De Klerk’s spell in the middle overs, of four overs for 17 runs and one wicket, was vital for the Proteas to reclaim momentum.

Captain Knight and Sciver-Brunt built a solid fourth-wicket partnership of 47 off 35 deliveries, and looked to coast their team home before De Klerk struck the big wicket of the tournament, leading run-scorer Sciver Brunt for 40 off 34 deliveries, including five boundaries.

England’s capitulation started there. Khaka bowled a phenomenal 17th over of change-ups and yorkers to take three wickets – that of Amy Jones, Katherine Sciver-Brunt and Sophie Ecclestone – to all but seal the Proteas’ passage to the final.

Skipper Knight was still at the crease with her team, needing 25 off the final two overs. She struck a six as England took 12 off Marizanne Kapp, and needed 13 off the final over. Ismail made Knight’s stumps cartwheel on the third delivery, to send the crowd into jubilation.

Laura Wolvaardt of South Africa during the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup semi-final match between South Africa and England. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

Setting the tone

Luus’ decision to bat first helped South Africa apply scoreboard pressure on the English. South Africa made a slow and steady start, with openers Laura Wolvaardt and Brits scoring 37 without loss during the powerplay.

As in their last group game victory over Bangladesh, their measured approach continued until the 10th over, as the pair reached 67. But, like the victory over the Tigers, they stepped on the accelerator immediately afterwards.

Wolvaardt brought up her half-century in the 14th over with one of her trademark strokes – an exquisite lofted-cover drive off the bowling of Ecclestone. Wolvaardt struck five fours and one elegant six in her knock of 53 off 44 balls.

The wily Ecclestone had the last laugh though, trapping Wolvaardt with a delivery that gripped, turned and caught her outside edge, which was easily pouched by Charlie Dean at point.

Brits was going at a run-a-ball 37 at that point, as she struggled to acclimatise to the pace of the wicket. She finally found her groove in the 16th over, when she tore into Sarah Glenn, smashing 17 runs off the over and bringing up her half-century off 43 deliveries in the process.

Brits continued her onslaught and finished with a well-timed 68 off 55 deliveries – which included six fours and two sixes – before fast bowler Lauren Bell got her wicket in the 18th over.

South Africa was on track to reach 180 runs before Brits’ dismissal. Ecclestone dragged back the momentum almost single-handedly in the penultimate over of the innings by picking up two scalps.

First was big hitter Chloe Tryon, who came and went for three off three, after she holed out at deep-midwicket, tidily caught by Natalie Sciver-Brunt. Next was Nadine de Klerk, who was cleaned up masterfully by Ecclestone two balls later. Ecclestone finished with immaculate figures of three wickets for 22 runs in her four overs.

But Kapp sealed the South African innings in style, with two fours off the final two balls by Katherine Sciver-Brunt, as she and captain Luus took 18 off the final over, to help the team to a fantastic 164 for four.

The Proteas take on Australia in the final of the Women’s T20 World Cup at Newlands Cricket Stadium, on Sunday 26 February at 3pm. DM

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