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England heavy favourites to end South Africa’s wobbly campaign

Nat Sciver has been a key performer for England in the tournament 

England have reached six women’s World T20 or T20 World Cup semifinals, won four of them and had one washed out. South Africa have been there twice, and lost twice.

There is little reason to believe that trend won’t continue when the teams meet in their semifinal at Newlands on Friday. No doubt England expected to be here. The South Africans wouldn’t be human if they weren’t surprised to have made it this far.

Unbeaten England steamrolled their way into the knockout rounds by beating West Indies, Ireland, India and Pakistan. South Africa crashed to a shock defeat by Sri Lanka in the tournament opener, were fortunate to catch New Zealand on an off day and beat them, lost to Australia, and laboured to victory over Bangladesh. Wednesday’s double-header, also at Newlands, offered a stark illustration of the teams’ different worlds.

England hammered Pakistan’s bowling to all parts to total 213/5, the record score in the history of the tournament. They won by 114 runs, another record. A more complete, emphatic performance would be difficult to find.

South Africa’s bowlers brought their end of the bargain by restricting Bangladesh to 113/6. The home side won by 10 wickets, but their turgid chase took 17.5 overs. The required run-rate, 5.7 at the start of South Africa’s reply, climbed to 7.10 midway through the innings. And that against a side who have gone home winless. “We made it look a lot harder than it was,” Laura Wolvaardt said afterwards.

The South Africans will face their toughest test yet trying to contain England’s powerhouse batting line-up, who have scored more runs in the tournament than any other team. The English hit 72 fours and a dozen sixes in the group stage – more than anyone else, and amounting to more than 60% of their total runs.

Yet Nat Sciver-Brunt is England’s only representative among the top 10 run-scorers in that tournament at No. 1 with 176 in four innings at a strike rate of 147.89. Sixteen players, including South Africa’s Laura Wolvaardt and Tazmin Brits, have made more runs than England’s next best batter, Amy Jones, who has scored 99 in three innings. But just 26 runs separate Jones, Heather Knight, Danni Wyatt and Alice Capsey, England’s next highest run-scorers, from Jones – an indication of the team’s batting depth.

It will help the home side that only Australia had a better economy rate in the group games than their 5.71. Even so, Sophie Ecclestone was the joint-leading wicket-taker with eight and had the second-best economy rate, 3.81. Marizanne Kapp was one of five bowlers who were one wicket behind Ecclestone, and Ayabonga Khaka and Kapp were fifth and sixth in the runrate stakes at 4.63 and 4.65.

Whichever way the numbers are spun, it’s difficult to see a clear advantage for the South Africans. They are going to have to play exponentially better, and England exponentially worse, than they have so far in the tournament if the result is to be different from what is expected.

When: February 24, 2023; 3pm Local Time (1pm BST, 6.30pm IST)

Where: Newlands, Cape Town

What to expect: Sunshine and runs. The top two totals in the tournament were scored here.

Team news:

South Africa: The home side’s preferred XI for Newlands should crack the nod.

Possible XI: Laura Wolvaardt, Tazmin Brits, Marizanne Kapp, Sune Luus (capt), Chloe Tryon, Anneke Bosch, Nadine de Klerk, Sinalo Jafta, Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka, Nonkululeko Mlaba

England: Lauren Bell, who was rested for Tuesday’s match and replaced by Freya Davies, looks likely to return in a straight swap

Possible XI: Danni Wyatt, Sophia Dunkley, Alice Capsey, Nat Sciver-Brunt, Heather Knight (capt), Amy Jones, Katherine Sciver-Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Sarah Glenn, Charlie Dean, Lauren Bell

Did you know

– South Africa have met England in three white-ball World Cup semifinals, and lost all of them.

– England are the only other team besides Australia to win this tournament.

What they said:

“Oh, that’s great then. There’s no pressure on us then. We can just go out and enjoy and play freely, enjoy the moment and try and do our best.” – Sune Luus on what she would say to people who think South Africa have no chance of winning.

“The pressure is all on South Africa. It’s a home World Cup for them.” – Danni Wyatt doesn’t agree with Luus.


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