England made it through to the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup by bowling out a slumping West Indies, after posting a solid total on a low, slow pudding at the Sydney Showground.
Earlier in the day South Africa had laid down a marker for what was possible on what was clearly a tough track to bat on – posting 136 against Pakistan, thanks to a brilliant “Closing” half century from Laura Wolvaardt, who hit 53* off just 36 balls at the death. They were runs South Africa really needed – had she struck at a run-a ball, South Africa would have totalled only 119 – exactly the score Pakistan eventually made in their chase.
So with Wolvie’s heroics to live up to, England elected to bat first having won the toss, and sent in Tammy Beaumont instead of Amy Jones to open the innings and get them off to a flying start. It didn’t quite work out as planned up-top – the pressure was all on Beaumont after everything that’s been said in the media, and she found herself walking back after just two balls, LBW to Shakera Selman.
So had the new plan failed?
Initially, yes, but there was a twist in the tale to come!
After Danni Wyatt, Heather Knight and Nat Sciver all contributed, England found themselves with 3 overs remaining on 107-4 – heading for a score of around 126. Then came the twist – Amy Jones, having been dropped down the order, effectively swapping with Beaumont, smacked a vital 23 off 13 balls. With the help of Katherine Brunt (10 off 4) England succeeded in “Closing” the innings even harder than South Africa had done, hitting 12, 11 and 13 off those last 3 overs to finish on 143 – bettering South Africa by 7 runs.
We know how much of an up and down side the Windies can be, so those last 3 overs must have been devastating – they certainly didn’t come in looking like a team that believed they were capable of chasing that total, and so it proved. They played out more dots than the Morse Code… and with very few dashes between the wickets either, they slumped to 97 all out, with Stafanie Taylor retired hurt.
Sophie Ecclestone finished with 3-7 from 3.1 overs; but the Play of the Day for me was Mady Villiers wonderful Caught & Bowled to dismiss Shemaine Campbelle. It was Villiers first outing of the tour, and England emphasised afterwards that it was a tactical change to add another spin option for this particular track, so we may or may not see her again, but she’s taken a special wicket here that will live long in the memory.
England and South Africa now both move across Sydney to the SCG for the semis; but their respective opponents won’t be settled until South Africa take on the Windies – if South Africa win that game, they will face New Zealand or Australia; but lose and they play Group A winners India. They will obviously be going all-out to win, because momentum is so important in a short tournament; but I’m not sure they will be toooooo disappointed if they lose, especially if it turns out to be Australia they end up handing to England in the semis.