England took themselves to the brink of semi-final qualification with a solid performance against South Africa, as the Proteas failed to chase down 167 for the second time in 3 days, having been set the exact same target by New Zealand here on Saturday.
Although the South Africans got closer on Saturday, falling 13 short as opposed to 26 today, this was in some ways a better looking performance – they took more wickets than England did, and they stayed in touch with the rate until the 17th over, which was when things turned definitively against them.
With 3 overs to go, South Africa needed 51 from 24 balls – a required rate of 12.8, but with Chloe Tryon still at the crease along with Laura Wolvaardt it felt like a “definitely maybe” moment. But that 17th over bowled by Katherine Brunt turned “definitely maybe” into “definitely not”. An ugly single to Woolvie was followed by two dots to Tryon, who then tried to lump a slower ball over cow corner, only to find the hands of Freya Kemp at long off.
(Kemp has looked pretty handy all-round in the field, making a brilliant save at long on earlier in the day – if she ever gets bored of cricket, she’d make one hell of a goalkeeper! [Don’t give her ideas! Ed.])
Two more singles off the final deliveries of the 17th, and 51 from 24 had become 48 from 18 – a required rate of 16.0, and that was game over bar the shouting, with Brunt completing a spell of 1-16 from 3 overs. It won’t look like a “great” spell in the scorebook, but that 17th over was absolutely crucial for England’s hopes of progressing in this tournament.
The headlines though will obviously once again go to Alice Capsey, who has now batted 3 times for England, and impressed on every occasion. If her first innings was brutal aggression; and her second savvy game management; her third lay somewhere in between, as she became the youngest English woman ever to score a T20 half-century, 9 days before she’s legally allowed to buy herself a drink to celebrate.
The most impressive part again was actually the running – she was nailing the boundaries, hitting seven 4s and one 6; but she also wanted to take every single on offer, and then with the single taken was constantly looking for the second too. It showed her work ethic, and her willingness to play for the team, which is what gives you so much hope that this is just the beginning for her.
Proudly wearing the black eye she sustained before the Sri Lanka game at the weekend (“it looks worse than it is”), Capsey’s performance in front of the media after the game was equally as impressive and assured as she’d been on the pitch. Looking forward to a potential semi-final and medal match, she told the press: “They’re the games that you want to be part of, playing against the best countries. We’re starting to build momentum, we’re getting better each game.” Heather Knight couldn’t have put it any better herself!
England will now be waiting on the result of tonight’s other game to be 100% assured of qualification for the semi-finals. A New Zealand win (or a no-result) will put them into the next phase of the competition, with the White Ferns officially joining them if they get the win.