South Africa won in a dramatic final over to break England’s hearts in the second semi-final at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023.
A thrilling match saw South Africa deliver when it mattered to beat in-form England and march into Sunday's home World Cup final against Australia.
The Proteas posted a very competitive first-innings score of 164/4 thanks to half-centuries from openers Tazmin Brits and Laura Wolvaardt.
And the momentum swung back and forth during England’s chase, with England’s openers getting off to a lightning start, Brits clinging on to four catches to remove each of England’s top four, and Ayabonga Khaka taking three wickets in a match-changing over.
It all came down to Shabnim Ismail’s final over, with England requiring 13 runs to win and they fell six runs short.
The result means that South Africa are through to their first-ever World Cup final in any format.
England’s openers got the reply off to a stunning start, putting together a 53-run partnership inside the Powerplay to bring down the required scoring rate.
The explosive Sophia Dunkley fell at the start of the sixth over, mistiming a big shot off Shabnim Ismail into the hands of Brits to depart for 28 from 16.
And Brits pulled off a sensational catch two balls later to remove Alice Capsey without scoring.
England dug in as the pressure began to build, with key batter Nat Sciver-Brunt holding the key.
Yet there was another twist when Brits produced her third catch of the innings to remove Danni Wyatt for 34. And just when it looked like Nat Sciver-Brunt was steering England to a winning position, Brits popped up in the deep to remove the tournament’s top-scorer for a 34-ball 40.
England needed a big finish, but Khaka had other ideas, bowling a brilliant 18th over and taking three wickets to remove Amy Jones (2), Sophie Ecclestone (1) and Katherine Sciver-Brunt (0) to leave 25 needed from the last two overs.
And that triple-strike left England short of firepower as they were unable to chase down 13 in Ismail's final over to bow out of the tournament.
Earlier it was Proteas captain Sune Luus who won the toss and opted to bat first, and her openers got off to a steady start in the Powerplay.
The pace of scoring wasn’t particularly high, but South Africa kept wickets in hand and laid a platform as Wolvaardt and Brits reached 37/0 after six overs.
The rate of scoring increased as the openers continued to build a platform, with Wolvaardt the more fluent of the two.
But with England having hit a record score at the same ground just days ago, albeit against a weaker bowling unit, the onus was on South Africa to attack in the second half of their innings.
A flowing boundary from Wolvaardt brought up her second half-century in as many matches. But she fell just three balls later, caught by Charlie Dean off Sophie Ecclestone for 53 from 44 balls.
Fellow opener Brits started slowly, but sped up rapidly in the second half of her innings, racing to 68 off 55 when she was removed by Lauren Bell in the 18th over to dent the Proteas’ progress.
South Africa’s power hitters were left with two overs remaining to add gloss to a decent score.
Ecclestone came back well in her final over to remove Chloe Tryon and Nadine de Klerk, finishing with standout figures of 3/22 from her four overs.
But Katherine Sciver-Brunt’s final over went for 18 runs as Marizanne Kapp unleashed big shot after big shot, finishing unbeaten on 27* from 13 balls.
A total of 164/4 was always going to test England, and so it proved, as a vocal home crowd celebrated South Africa’s historic win.
Was fielding the difference?
In both semi-finals, the better fielding team triumphed.
And England will look back with regret at a sloppy and disjointed effort in the first innings that allowed South Africa to add more to their score than perhaps they should have done.
In contrast, South Africa were extraordinary in the field, most notably through Brits, who repeatedly stopped England’s progress at crucial moments with her brilliant catches.
Australia await in the final
Australia triumphed over India in a fascinating first semi-final on Thursday, holding on to win by five runs after posting a large but not unbeatable first-innings score of 172/4.
Ash Gardner was Player of the Match for a superb all-round display. Her fiery lower-order knock helped boost the target, her brilliance in the field played a part in a crucial run-out, and she picked up two wickets with the ball – including opener Smriti Mandhana.
Australia are targeting a sixth Women’s T20 World Cup title, but showed some signs of weakness against India. And the Aussies were on the right side of a fortunate incident when India captain Harmanpreet Kaur was run out in bizarre fashion just when she looked set to take her team to a winning position.
South Africa don't have a particularly strong recent record against Australia in this format, with the Proteas slipping to a six-wicket defeat to the world’s top-ranked side during the group stage.
But momentum is firmly with Luus and her side, and they will be confident of pushing the Aussies all the way.