BRISTOL: Sarah Taylor struck a vital half-century to help England book a place in the Women’s World Cup final as they beat South Africa by two wickets at Bristol on Tuesday.
Taylor, back in an England shirt for this tournament after a year out of the game, hit 54 off 76 balls to give England control of the match before a mini collapse created a nail-biting finish.
Yet England, set 219 to win, held their nerve to complete their second highest successful run chase in World Cup history, built on the third-wicket partnership of 78 between Taylor and England captain Heather Knight.
The result bodes well for England as they go in search of their first piece of silverware in eight years, having won both previous World Cups they hosted.
Earlier, South Africa pair Laura Wolvaardt and Mignon du Preez recorded half-centuries as they reached 218 for six, after captain Dane van Niekerk elected to bat first with sunny blue skies overhead.
England did make an early breakthrough when Anya Shrubsole bowled Lizelle Lee for 7, having had an lbw decision against the powerful opener reversed on review the previous over.
But teenager Wolvaardt took charge and laid the foundations for South Africa’s innings, scoring her fourth half-century of the tournament, which came off 81 balls and included six fours.
Taylor produced a spectacular piece of wicket-keeping to remove Trisha Chetty, stumping her off a legside wide from Nat Sciver before Wolvaardt consolidated with Du Preez to the tune of 77 for the third wicket.
Wolvaardt eventually fell to Knight, bowled off the England skipper’s second delivery of the match, prior to new bat Marizanne Kapp being run out by Shrubsole three balls later in the same over.
Van Niekerk departed in similar fashion following quick work by Sciver in the field, and then Jenny Gunn had Chloe Tryon caught and bowled.
Du Preez, who top-scored with 76, and Sune Luus kept the score ticking over to ensure a challenging total was posed.
South Africa, the lowest ranked side to reach the knockout rounds of the tournament, experienced a difficult start to the second innings as they struggled with their lines.
Ayabonga Khaka found it easier going, though, and accounted for both openers, as Du Preez caught Lauren Winfield and Khaka sent Tammy Beaumont’s bails flying.
Taylor showed her intent straight away with the bat and looked in supreme form before being run out by Van Niekerk four runs after reaching her half-century.
That dismissal saw England lose three wickets in 12 deliveries, as Knight pulled a full toss to Wolvaardt for 30 and Luus bowled Sciver round her legs on three, to bring South Africa back in the match.
Moseline Daniels then dismantled Katherine Brunt’s stumps, Fran Wilson departed ramping Kapp, and Laura Marsh was bowled by Ismail to leave the hosts needing two off three balls.
But Shrubsole smashed her first delivery for four to win it and take England through to a sell-out Lord’s final — against either defending champions Australia or India — on Sunday.