Australia will face India in the ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020 final after the hosts came through a nerve-shredding semi-final against South Africa in Sydney.
Meg Lanning led from the front to score 49 before taking two brilliant catches in the Proteas chase of 98 in 13 overs, adjusted by the DLS method following rain at the SCG. Dane van Niekerk's side gave it their all but fell five runs short of a maiden final, with Australia now just one win away from a fifth Women's T20 World Cup title.
Earlier, India sealed their ticket to the MCG on 8 March – International Women's Day – after their semi-final against England was abandoned without a ball bowled.
"We've had a lot thrown at us this tournament and to be able to come together at a really big moment is certainly special," said Lanning. "We'll enjoy the win knowing there's something massive coming up in the next few days.
"We never came into this World Cup thinking it would just happen and it was going to be easy. We knew it was in for a fight and that's exactly what happened. We weren't owed anything. We're not here to defend [the title], we're here to win it."
Van Niekerk elected to bowl first with further bad weather forecast, but Australia openers Alyssa Healy (18) and Beth Mooney (28) started in good fashion. Ayabonga Khaka broke the partnership on 34 with van Niekerk snaffling Healy at mid-wicket, though Mooney and captain Lanning avoided any further damage early on.
South Africa dried up the runs with nearly six overs between boundaries after Mooney's dismissal, bowled by Nadine de Klerk – playing just her second game of the tournament. She wasnt's done there either, having Ashleigh Gardner caught behind before bowling Rachael Haynes (17) to finish her four overs with 3/19.
Jess Jonassen also fell cheaply as Australia lost three wickets for three runs to sit at 71/4 in the 11th over.
Lanning, who boasts a superb record in T20I knockout cricket, then continued her form to guide the innings with Haynes and then Nicola Carey.
Australia finished on 134/5, but the Proteas chase was initially halted by rain, with van Niekerk and Lizelle Lee preparing for a revised target when the weather relented.
A superb slog sweep from van Niekerk got them going but when the captain was bowled by a wonderful Megan Schutt (2/17) in-swinger, her side were 23/2 at the end of four overs. Lee had earlier fallen in Molineux's first over of the tournament before Mignon du Preez was dismissed by Delissa Kimmince, thanks to a wonderful low catch from Lanning.
It was then up to Sune Luus and Laura Wolvaardt (41*) to strive for the 43 needed from 24 balls, with the latter picking up where she left off against Pakistan with some glorious cover drives.
Luus, though, holed out to long-off off Schutt, while skipper Lanning again took a blinder to dismiss the dangerous Chloe Tryon as South Africa fell agonisingly short of their maiden final.
"We've only been in three knockout games, Australia have been in countless," said van Niekerk. "You can never write off the No.1 team in the world and they showed tonight why they are. It comes with experience and confidence. They are the deserved No.1 at the moment.
"I really hope we can get a win over Australia soon. I thought tonight was the night but it wasn't meant to be. I was really calm when I arrived at the ground. I really hope the final gets the 90,000 people the tournament deserves."
The final match-up also offers a repeat of the very first game of the tournament, a contest India won to launch their unbeaten campaign and reach the MCG.
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