Danielle Wyatt made the most of the luck that came her way enroute to a memorable hundred as defending champions England showed their big-match temperament with a 137-run win over South Africa to enter the Women’s World Cup final on Thursday.
Wyatt (129 off 125), who was dropped five times, struck a maiden World Cup hundred before Sophia Dunkley produced a fine 60 off 72 balls to take England to an imposing 293 for eight after South Africa chose to bowl. South Africa, who had reached the last-four stage as the second best team from the league stage and also eliminated India from the competition, crumbled under the pressure of a knock-out game. They could never recover from the body blow received in the second over of the chase when pacer Anya Shrubsole (2/27) had tournament’s leading run-getter Laura Wolvaardt caught and bowled.
Their innings ended at 156 in 38 overs. Left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone completed the job for England by cleaning up the lower-order, ending with six wickets for 36 runs in eight overs. She had also hit an unbeaten 24 off 11 balls to take England close to the 300-run mark. With five wins on the trot after three losses that had them staring at an early exit, England’s juggernaut is well and truly rolling as they stand on the cusp of a fifth title.
Their final and familiar opponents Australia, on the other hand, are eyeing a record-extending seventh crown. “That was a complete performance from us, something we were searching for a little bit. Really chuffed that the girls have brought their best cricket when everything’s on the line,” said England skipper Heather Knight referring to their comeback after a disastrous start to their tournament campaign. “I think the knockout cricket that we have been playing for the last four games has helped us.”
On meeting the undefeated Australia in the final on Sunday, she added: “We will go in as underdogs. We have put a lot of energy in the last few weeks and need a one last push and hopefully we can do that on Sunday.” It was a brilliant display of swing bowling from Shrubsole that broke the backbone of South Africa batting in the run chase. Wolvaardt’s opening partner Lizelle Lee was Shrubsole’s second wicket as the out-of-form batter flicked it straight into the hands of the mid-wicket fielder, ending her forgettable campaign in the ICC event.
After Kate Cross removed Sune Luus with a beauty that seamed to nip back in sharply, the writing was on the wall for South Africa, who paid the price for their sloppy fielding early on in the game. Their decision to chase in a high-pressure game was also debatable. However, it was still a good run for South Africa in the competition. “We needed to bring our best performance today and we didn’t and we are feeling it. We needed to be clinical today and we weren’t, it is time to keep on working,” said South Africa skipper Sune Luus. I still think we had a great campaign and we are not taking anything away from that.”