England progressed to their fifth World Cup final but not before South Africa gave them a mighty scare in Bristol. England nearly paid the price for switching off. A cruise when Sarah Taylor and Heather Knight were at the crease turned into a full-blown collapse when they lost three wickets – one of those to a brilliant run-out and another to a rank full toss – in the space of eleven deliveries. At 149 for 5, chasing 219, it was game on.
But England dug deep to find a way out. Fran Wilson and Jenny Gunn exhibited England’s batting depth to take them within six runs of victory. Wilson showed tremendous guts – none more than her scoop to a full ball over short third man off Shabnim Ismail with England needing 40 off 38 – to make 30, before falling in the 48th over.
It should have been easily from there on, but pressure can do strange things. South Africa were taking every step to make Nelson Mandela Day a memorable one. The game hinged on a knife’s edge as it went into the final over, off which England needed three. Ismail, entrusted with the responsibility of trying to polish off the last three wickets, put down a sharp chance off the first ball to reprieve Gunn. Nerves were jangling. Then with two needed off four, she foxed Laura Marsh with a slower ball. The England players were on tenterhooks now.
South Africa needed two wickets. Anya Shrubsole, hardly needed to bat in the tournament, was on strike. She saw width and flayed it through point to bring up the winning runs, runs that were like a dagger through South Africa’s hearts as another World Cup dream crashing down to leave them heart-broken even as a jubilant England side extended an arm of support to the wounded soldiers.
Summarized scores: England 221 for 8 (Taylor 54, Wilson 30, Luus 2-24 Khaka 2-28) beat South Africa 218 for 6 (Du Preez 76, Wolvaardt 66) by two wickets