Southern Stars shine against South Africa
CRICKET: It was comfortable in the end for Australia's Southern Stars, who cruised to a second-place finish in the group stage of the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup with a 59-run win over South Africa.
Australia got to work with the bat early in the innings and though on track for a possible 300-plus score, they still set a big target of 270 for South Africa. The Aussie bowlers then followed that up with another tight performance with the ball and limited the Proteas 210.
Things may not have ended as poorly for South Africa had Marizanne Kapp not been given out in the 37th over when she had clearly made it back in to her crease.
They were at 4-162 when Alex Blackwell pegged the ball in from extra cover as Kapp came down for the run and replays showed Kapp had nearly her full bat over the line by the time the bails came off. Without DRS because of the game not being broadcast, the umpire's decision of out stood.
Though it appeared South Africa's chances had started to slip at that point, having lost the key wicket of opener Laura Wolvaardt (71) a few overs before, captain Dane van Niekerk felt the decision was a game-changer.
"I don't know what to say. When I checked it from our area, her hands were in before it even hit the stumps,” she said.
"That was a changing moment in the game because she was hitting it really well. Maybe something would've changed there.
"It'll be ideal I guess. Throughout this whole tournament with the streaming and having all these nice things around, you kind of see what we've been missing.
"Umpires are human, they have to make those split-second decisions, he felt that it was out but at the end of the day I think that's what's needed in women's cricket.
"In crucial moments in the match, it makes a difference.”
The platform for Australia's win came from their top-order batters. The opening partnership of 137 between Beth Mooney (53) and Nicole Bolton (79) had the Aussies tracking for a total of more than 300.
Support for them came at four from Ellyse Perry (55) - who recorded her fifth straight half century this tournament and took player-of-the-match honours with 2-47 added with the ball - and the three half centuries gave the lower order freedom to hit the ball around.
That they did. The Australians lost their wickets in bunches, four between the 22nd and 29th overs then another four between the 41st and 45th. Despite that and 5-67 haul from spinner Sune Luus, Australia was pleased with the 269 and that their bowlers were able to finish the job.
"We really set the tone with our batting innings. I know we left a couple of balls out there but I think our intent to go pretty big was evident,” Bolton said.
"Pretty good start by the South Africans, to come back and bowl a really hard length blockhole and to get the run rate up was a great way to get us back in the game.
"At the end of the day we would've taken 270 on that wicket. We were setting the innings up nicely to go quite big past 300.
"Losing wickets together was a bit of an issue and it kind of stopped the innings a bit.
"(But) for our bowlers to come out there and do what they did today was awesome.”
Australia now head to Derby to play India in the second semi-final on Thursday. The two only met a week ago when Australia easily disposed of them with an eight-wicket win in Bristol.
The bowlers returned to form that match and tightened their lines to reduce a wide count of 23 against England to just six. They kept that up against South Africa, bowling just eight in the innings.
It means Australia take good form with bat and ball into the semi-final.
"Our bowling unit's definitely come back really strong from the England match. You saw against India and again (against South Africa) they've just been on song,” Bolton said.
"To continue that, build that pressure, particularly with some of India's batters who are actually performing and hitting the ball really well.
"Consolidating that real good start at the top of the order, and hopefully finishing probably a little bit stronger. We left a few runs out there today so we'll be looking not to leave any balls out there.”
The winner of Australia v India will play the winner of England v South Africa on Sunday, July 23 at Lord's.