After losing to England in the semi-final of the 2017 World Cup, and then having a nightmare against a rampant Anya Shrubsole in St Lucia at the 2017 World T20, South Africa finally got the England monkey off their backs with a memorable win at the WACA.
This was always going to be England’s most difficult game in the group stages, and they will still expect to qualify for the semi-finals by targeting wins over the West Indies, Thailand and Pakistan. But if they are going to go any further than that in the tournament, they will need to bat a lot better than they did today, especially in the middle-overs.
Between overs 4 and 15, England trudged along at just 4.5 an over, despite having wickets in hand and plenty of proper batting still in the shed. There were really no excuses. Overs 16-through-18 – which went for 13, 10 and 11 – showed that there were runs out there, but neither Heather Knight coming in at 4, nor Fran Wilson at 5, were able to find them – between them scoring just 20 off 35 balls.
It would be remiss not to mention Nat Sciver, who scored a half-century at a Strike Rate of 122; but when the batters at the other end are going at under 60, as they were, there’s a limit to what even Super-Sciver can do to build a defendable total.
And let’s be clear that although the scorecard will show that England defended it into the final over, this was not really a “defendable” total. South Africa’s batters just did what they needed to do – Dane van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp were brilliant in controlling the chase, keeping the required rate hovering around a comfortable 7, knowing that with wickets in hand that would get them over the line.
Overall England didn’t bowl badly as a unit. Shrubsole’s last two overs went for 22, which isn’t ideal when you are defending a low total, but then her first two had delivered 1-4, so bringing her back was a reasonable bet, especially with England really needing wickets.
But although the wickets of Kapp and van Niekerk did both come eventually, the hard yards were done by then, leaving Chloe Tryon and Mignon du Preez to steer their country to an exciting win, which should (… and I say should!) all-but guarantee them a semi-final spot. And on the balance of today, it is a spot they’ll deserve.