By Shashank Kishore in Sylhet
Middle order comes good after bowlers restrict South Africa to 116 in a game that looked like it could go either way
South Africa opted to bat but didn't help its cause by attempting to slog its way out of trouble when confronted with disciplined bowling, eventually restricted to 116 for 9. Its bowlers then nipped out the top three in quick time, but the belligerence of Ellyse Perry and Jess Cameron allowed Australia to win with eight balls to spare.
Perry, promoted to No. 5 as a pinch hitter, smashed seven boundaries in her unbeaten 29, while Cameron, who swapped places, provided the icing on the cake by finishing at 32 not out. The unbroken 60-run stand soothed Australia's nerves after it choked under pressure to lose by nine runs in its tournament opener against New Zealand.
South Africa's start wasn't auspicious as Lizelle Lee was out first ball to the medium pacer Rene Farrell. Lee's attempted flick to an away-swinger landed in the safe hands of Cameron, who dived forward to complete a good low catch. Dane Van Niekerk didn't mellow down and her impatience got the better of her as she top edged a slog sweep to square leg.
Trisha Chetty looked in sumptuous touch, playing three immaculate cover drives in her 28-ball 30, but one shot too many resulted in her downfall. She smashed a short and wide delivery to backward point, only to find herself walking back in disbelief. Captain Mignon du Preez and Marizanne Kapp needed to rebuild. Instead, they were dismissed attempting for glory.
Suddenly, the South African innings was in tatters at 64 for 5 in the 13th over. Such was the flurry of activity in the middle that the innings was in danger of not lasting the quota of overs. It took the efforts of Sune Luus to bring some life into the innings. Luus smashed three boundaries off the last over as South Africa went into the break with a much-needed lift.
It returned a galvanised lot and fielded like tigers. Alyssa Healy was brilliantly run out by Sunette Louber, who dived herself at point to first stop a certain four and then quickly recover and hurl an accurate throw at the bowlers end. Captain Meg Lanning chopped a Shabnim Ismail delivery onto the stumps to leave Australia churning right at the start.
It could have been 26 for 3 had the wicketkeeper Chetty held on to a skier, but Delissa Kimmince couldn't capitalise on the reprieve as she was out playing a reverse sweep off Loubser. Vice-captain Alex Blackwell attempted to restore sanity, but she was caught off guard attempting a second run as Kapp swooned in like a hawk from fine leg to effect a direct hit at the keeper's end to leave Australia at 56 for 4 in the 13th over.
Australia needed to knock it around and preserve wickets for one final onslaught, which finally came in the 15th over – 48 off six overs reduced to 27 off four. Before South Africa realised what hit it, Australia was swinging home.
Chloe Tyron was thrown the ball at the death, perhaps because she displayed good control in her first two overs, but the third was taken for 14 to leave Australia within touching distance. It was indeed the 'one big over' – the International Cricket Council's tagline for the tournament – that changed the game.