Hosts’ No 10 Anya Shrubsole whacked her first ball for four to clinch a place at Lord’s against Australia or India on Sunday
ENGLAND’S women rode an emotional roller-coaster before reaching the World Cup final with a thrilling victory over South Africa.
No.10 batsman Anya Shrubsole struck her first ball for four to propel England over the winning line by two wickets with two deliveries remaining.
Just 24 hours after the men were humiliated by the Proteas, it showed that at least one England team could beat South Africa in a big match.
But they almost tossed it away with a mixture of run outs and panicky dismissals after apparently cruising to a victory target of 219.
Heather Knight’s team will now face either Australia or India in the final at Lord’s on Sunday and the match is already a 26,500 sell-out.
Knight said: “We haven’t put in a perfect performance in the tournament yet but we keep finding ways to win.
“The profile of women’s cricket is increasing and that’s credit to the players and the standard they are producing. It’s a better game to watch and brings spectators to the grounds. All we can do is keep putting in performances to showcase the game.
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“Our aim all along has been to get to Lord’s, win the final and sing the team song. We’re now just one victory away from achieving that.”
England reached 139-2 with star batsman Sarah Taylor and Knight looking in control. But Taylor was run out, Knight whacked a full toss to square leg and Nat Sciver was bowled behind her legs.
Then Fran Wilson scored 30 and veteran Jenny Gunn contributed a vital 27 not out as England just managed to win despite a couple more late wickets.
Gunn insisted: “I was telling Anya how to play that first ball but, fortunately, she didn’t listen to a word and smashed it through the covers! I’m still speechless, to be honest.”
There were plenty of tears at the end of the game and the way Gunn commiserated with the South African players was reminiscent of the way Andrew Flintoff famously comforted Brett Lee after the 2005 Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
Gunn said: “It’s horrible to lose a semi-final and I just told them they had done their country proud.”
South African skipper Dane van Niekerk added: “If you were in our changing room right now, you’d probably be crying. I can’t explain how proud I feel of the players but the reality is we didn’t score enough runs. It is very disappointing.”
Taylor was Player of the Match for a half-century and one of her brilliant trademark legside stumpings.
The win was a personal triumph for the wicketkeeper after she was out for almost a year with an anxiety-related illness.
Taylor returned for this tournament and said: “It’s been a long journey for all of us, I don’t think it has sunk in yet.
“A year ago, I was absolutely nowhere. This morning, our coach Mark Robinson said ‘congratulations’ to me and asked him what for? He said, ‘for being here and putting your kit on.’ The cricket takes care of itself but I’ll reflect nicely in the future on what I have achieved.”
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