T20 WORLD CUP SEMI-FINAL – England v South Africa: Britskrieg!

It was England who smashed South Africa all over the park last summer, winning the white-ball series in England 6-0.

It was England who pummelled over 200 at this very ground just a couple of days ago; after which South Africa nervously stuttered to a win against Bangladesh.

But it was South Africa today that played their hearts out for this generation to finally earn a place in a World Cup final, after falling at the semi-finals in 2 of the last 3 ICC global tournaments.

Batting first seemed a brave decision for a “bowling” team, and Laura Wolvaardt and Tazmin Brits were not quick out of the blocks; but they managed to get to the half-way mark undefeated while maintaining a steady strike rate of around 115. The dismissal of Wolvaardt, who was doing most of the work, could have been a turning-point – Brits was on 36 off 38 balls at that point, with 6 overs to go. But Brits – whose experience can be measured in years (32) but not so much in caps (46) – decided… rightly… that attack was the only way to go, hitting her next 17 balls for 32 crucial runs, at a Strike Rate of 188, to finish with 68 off 55. Marizanne Kapp then put the cherry on top at the death, hitting three 4s off a final over which went for 18 – exactly the same as Australia hit against India yesterday… and proving equally crucial.

Meanwhile England were disintegrating, with Katherine Sciver-Brunt losing her cool yet again, just as she did when put under pressure at the Commonwealth Games last summer, angrily (and, it appeared, unilaterally) ordering Alice Capsey from mid on after a misfield, and then continuing inexplicably to shout at Capsey after Charlie Dean dropped a catch (where Capsey had been) off the very next ball.

Heather Knight was forced to intervene, literally placing herself between Capsey and KSB to absorb the impact; and yet she still felt that KSB was in the right frame of mind to bowl the final over. It went for 18. England went on to lose by 6. That’s the “tldr” right there!

It is a pity for KSB’s career to end this way; but end it should now – and if she doesn’t see that, then the captain and coach need to see it for her.

Although it was an above-par performance with the bat from South Africa, England must have felt this chase was well within them, and they got off to a reasonable start, at least in the scorebook, reaching 53-0 off the first 5 overs. The reality however did contain signs of trouble to come – South Africa’s bowlers were desperately unlucky not to take two or three wickets in those first 5 overs, with balls passing the stumps by inches, and mishits flying feet from fielders.

The final over of the powerplay was where things began to turn in South Africa’s favour, thanks to that woman again – Tazmin Brits. Brits took a straightforward catch to dismiss Sophia Dunkley, but then added an absolute stunner of a one-handed dive to send Alice Capsey back to the dugout for a two-ball duck. The second catch earned Brits a round of applause in the press box – something that is virtually unheard of, as the written press generally try to maintain at least the appearance of detachment from proceedings on the pitch!

As for Capsey… how much she was unsettled by the verbal volley she had taken from KSB 20 minutes previously, we’ll never know – she’s not the one to admit it, even if she was. But it can’t have helped.

England rebuilt after that, and they stayed ahead of the rate until the 10th over, and in-touch until 16th – probably a match-winning position, unless they lost a load of wickets. But from 131-3 at the end of the 16th over, needing 34 off 24 with Nat Sciver-Brunt and Heather Knight established at the crease, they collapsed to 158-8 and a 6 run defeat.

Ayabonga Khaka – so often the under-appreciated third wheel in South Africa’s seam attack – ripped-up the script… and ripped-up England’s middle order, taking 3 wickets for 3 runs in the 18th over to turn the tide in South Africa’s favour. Kapp’s final over – the 19th – went for 12, leaving England needing 13 off the last.

Regular readers will recall one of my iron laws – that (statistically, at least) no one “ever” hits more than 10 off the final over to win a women’s T20 – and so it proved, with Shabnim Ismail grabbing two further wickets as England fell just 6 short.

There were tears from the England players after the game – they thought this was a game they would win – the media expected it; the fans expected it; and they expected it. They’ve played much more convincing cricket through the group stages than South Africa, but tournaments aren’t about being the best team – they are about holding your nerve at the critical moment. That’s what South Africa did today, and they thoroughly deserve their chance to face Australia in the final on Sunday.


9 thoughts on “T20 WORLD CUP SEMI-FINAL – England v South Africa: Britskrieg!

  1. I am glad you, (and others apparently according to Nasser Hussain) were not happy with KSBs outbursts. Not good. Ruins confidence of players being castigated, stops them being adventurous, they retract into a shell and goodness knows what else in a cauldron of competition. They all did well to get to semis, obviously final would be better. this experience
    (the loss of the game not KSBs wrath) will stand them in good stead for the future.


  2. Openly showing one’s opponents just how fragile one’s team spirit is was probably a greater morale boost to South Africa than any 4 or 6 they scored or any wicket they took. In that moment they knew they had England rattled and there for the taking. The fact they then proceeded to take England is very meritorious.

    Australia will be even more confident now because history shows it is incredibly difficult for underdog semi-final winners to repeat that effort in a final let alone in a final against the best team that has ever played the game.

    Lets hope South Africa cast history into the dustbin, excel even more than they did today, and stand toe-to-toe with Australia (regardless of who wins).


  3. So Jon Lewis finally tastes defeat and it was a bad game to do it in. This was a strange and slightly disappointing England performance in a few ways. SA definitely had the better of the conditions and I think that helped them. There were also a couple of blinding catches taken by SA which may have gone down on any other day. But the lack of early wickets seems to have been a big problem for England throughout most of the comp.

    It was a major issue today, and the first pole wasn’t taken until the 14th over. That’s just not good enough. This played into SA’s hands by allowing Wolvie and Brits to find their feet and take their time. They were then set to attack – and that’s how it played out, the “traditional” T20 approach of keeping wickets in hand and backloading attacking intent into the second half of the innings. I think England were surprised at SA’s later intent and it threw them off – from attacking as much as they should have with field placings or targeting the stumps. The result was a overly defensive display in the field that failed to either take wickets at the required times or restrict runs. The last 10 overs yielded nearly 100, and SA amassed at least 15 or 20 more than England would have been happy with. Glenn in particular didn’t have her best day at the office and was left with somewhat painful figures.

    England had a good powerplay and their innings was looking fine up until even the 17th over, although England’s run rate did decline between about the 10th to 13th overs which would have been worrying for the coach. Not sure there was a specific reason for that – or why Nadine De Klerk proved so hard for England to get away. Her economy was inexplicably and anomalously lower than anyone else in the game – and it leaves a few unanswered questions really. Why did England not recognise the problem earlier and attack De Klerk later in her spell? As fourth change bowler who had been expensive against SL, Aus and Bangladesh why was she not attacked from the outset? It’s not as if she took 3 or 4 wickets, which the much more expensive Khaka did. Then the pitch started to die and as the wickets went down, so did England’s hopes! In the end they crumbled under pressure as players who hadn’t spent much time in the middle were asked to chase an increasingly challenging target. Any tactics or “Bazball” goes out of the window at that point as it’s sheer desperation for runs.

    Jon Lewis has now learned about some of the specific vulnerabilities of this team which us long suffering fans have been familiar with for several years. Lack of wickets up top and a somewhat brittle batting order with a middle and lower end prone to collapse. Problem is, can anyone really be sure if the all out attack approach worked? Because when it came down to it, England went away from that a little bit today, I felt, and let SA get on top of them in the crunch moments. This was a rare occasion where England kind of “died wondering” so to speak, something that their regular brand of batting specifically prohibits. To lose a semi-final by a few runs makes it feel like the Australia match all those years ago where Robbo declared England were “not fit enough”, which was the match that cost Lottie her captaincy. Not that that was the reason today, at all. This was a much harder chase that England just mis-timed the pace of. Having said all that, it was about time SA beat England in a major semi-final – they played brilliantly; and England certainly impressed in the group stages and have many positives to take back with them. This was far from a rotten England performance – SA were just excellent throughout.

    Good luck to SA in the final – they’ll need it. Will they be marmalised by Australia as tradition and history might suggest, or offer a closer game? A performance of a similar level to today will certainly give a chance for a close match. But Australia aren’t as likely to crumble under pressure as England did.


  4. 3 thoughts: (1) For reasons of team morale and composure as well as current bowling ability, Kate Cross should have played in this final, not KSB. This has been a tournament too far for a once-great player. (2) As per this year’s WBBL, the best bowling attack tends to win tournaments – in the final, will that be South Africa’s, or Australia’s? (3) GO SOUTH AFRICA! Prove the sceptics (myself included) wrong – just like West Indies did in 2016 when they won the tournament as an unfancied home site, beating a slightly under par Aussie side in the final.

    PS: Thanks for all the coverage!


  5. Good write up, CricketHer. Ngl from an African perspective it’s sooo good to see SA host and make it to compete in the final especially in the manner they did – having been mashed by England in the 2022 tour, lambasted for their selection process and written off by all and sundry after the Sri Lanka game. Go on and get that trophy!!

    As an England fan it was a disappointing showing from the team. When the team is together and enjoying playing cricket together and going out there with a plan and a style in mind, that’s what you love to see, but that was nowhere to be seen in that match, that was a lonely fielding innings especially, if that makes sense. Selecting KSB seems premeditated from like a year ago & no one had the guts to say (including KSB to herself) – you’re actually competing for your place, on form, as much as any quick bowler. I dunno, maybe she’s been tearing it up in the nets. I don’t mean to be rude but I genuinely think she should be off writing her memoirs – which I’d buy for everyone I know!- not delivering toothless opening plus very wobbly death overs & ranting at youngsters in pressure situations. It does not look much fun to be out in the field with KSB lately which is sad to say as a huge long term fan.

    It was strange how India and England had such average/poor semifinals with ball. Must admit when England failed to take early wickets and ‘squeeze the middle’ I thought ‘oh shit, here we go, no final for you’. I bet HK, & KSB for that matter, miss the calming influence of an Anya Shrubsole.

    People/comms often talk about England as a great fielding side but I still don’t think it’s true. It’s not a discipline that has improved much imo in the last 5 years, may have gone backwards tbh. The all-round eliteness of NSB hides a multitude of sins in this team, average fielding and field placements chief among them. Jon Lewis should put that top of his agenda going into the summer, which of course I look forward to being back live at the grounds and backing England to put up a good fighting contest!


  6. Heather Knight : “South Africa had a very good plan with their bowling, they bowled straight lines and made it tough for us, and we probably conceded too many runs but this game doesn’t define us as a group”

    Genuine question : if exiting a world cup doesn’t define a team, can anyone suggest what does ?


  7. I’m still predicting that Australia will comfortably win the Ashes later this year. Although you’d hope that their slightly waning dominance and increasing periods of average-ness in games would mean England could pick up a few points.

    I actually have a theory that being forced to play long bilateral series against the best side in the world, way more often than anyone else has negatively affected this England side mentally, and heavily influenced the way they play. We’re all products of our environment, after all. Nearly always finding themselves behind, England have become a challenger side forced to think outside the box and innovate with an aggressive approach which is sometimes beyond them, hence the inevitable collapses. Whereas Australia have had no such pressures to push the envelope and thus stuck to doing the simple things well, playing the percentages with both bat and ball. Generalisations of course but there’s something to it. Could England learn something from that?

    The SL series that follows should give England a chance to get back on the front foot though . I still think SL are a weaker side unless you-know-who performs at her best.


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