I’ll admit to experiencing a fair few nerves ahead of today’s match. As a must-win game for England, I was worried.
That seems a long time ago now.
England absolutely trampled all over South Africa with the ball. Linsey Smith carried on from where she left off the other day, introduced in only the third over of the powerplay and claiming the wicket of Laura Wolvaardt with her fourth delivery. England did get somewhat overexcited early on – chucking away their DRS review on an Anya Shrubsole ball that was missing Lizelle Lee’s leg stump by a fair old whack – but with Lee the big South Africa wicket, perhaps that was understandable.
“It ended up being a terrible review really,” Shrubsole told CRICKETher afterwards. “I thought it was bit closer than it was, and then you watch a replay. It was one of those things – DRS is new to everyone and we are getting used to it.”
By the halfway stage England had already broken the backbone of the South African innings, reducing them from 27-1 to 30-4. Kirstie Gordon again bowled well, but it was Nat Sciver – with remarkable figures of 4-1-4-3 – who starred.
While it seemed incongruous for Mark Robinson to stick with an unchanged side, not bringing in Tash Farrant on this seamer’s wicket, the performance of Sciver today showed that she is quite capable of stepping up in Katherine Brunt’s stead, Farrant or no. After her good showing with the ball in this season’s KSL – 10 wickets at 28 – Sciver can now, I think, be considered a frontline T20 bowler, rather than a batter-who-bowls. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what has changed for her over the past few months, but something certainly has.
“She has worked really hard leading up to this – made a little bit of a technical change to her action, and the ball is coming out beautifully,” said Shrubsole of her new-ball partner. “We’ve always known that she is capable of this and she is a world class allrounder – she has shown it with the bat in the past, and she is showing it with the ball now in this tournament.”
Shrubsole then wrapped things up with a 20th over hat-trick. Easy pickings in one sense; but this was the clinical performance that we didn’t see against Bangladesh – England determined not to take their foot off the pedal until their opponents were ground into the dust.
By the time South Africa took the field, they were already thoroughly demoralised, as evidenced by some terrible pieces of fielding – new keeper Faye Tunnicliffe letting through 4 byes and Masabata Klaas failing to collect a straightforward pick-up at third man. It didn’t help that DRS was unavailable for much of the England innings due to a power outage. (Power cuts appear to be common here in St Lucia – we had one in our villa a few days back!)
Meanwhile the England openers, after such a disastrous start against Bangladesh on Monday, seem to have recovered their joie de vivre, presumably due to being able to train properly over the past 3 days thanks to some Caribbean sunshine. It was a shame they couldn’t finish the job, but to reach 55 without losing a wicket set the platform for the middle-order that was so non-existent on Monday.
So South Africa are out of it; while England are assured of a place in the semi-finals, after West Indies beat Sri Lanka.
From the South African perspective, after such a good showing in last year’s 50-over World Cup this tournament has been a huge disappointment. Their key problem is clearly their batting. Wednesday’s collapse against West Indies was pretty bad, but this was in some ways even worse: none of their top 4 could muster up a strike rate of more than 60. Their biggest asset with the bat, Lizelle Lee, seems to be stifling her natural game, holding back when she should be firing. While this might be assumed to be on the advice of her coaches, Hilton Moreeng categorically denied this in the post-match press conference.
England, meanwhile, face defending champions West Indies in their final group match on Sunday. Despite already being through to the next stage, England will want to win this to ensure they top the group and avoid a likely semi-final clash with Australia (dependent on the Aussies beating India tomorrow). It should be a cracker.