Women's World Cup: England reach final after beating South Africa

Women's World Cup semi-final, Bristol
South Africa 218-6 (50 overs): Du Preez 76*, Wolvaardt 66
England 221-8 (49.4 overs): Taylor 54, Knight 30, Wilson 30
England won by two wickets
Scorecard

Hosts England reached the Women's World Cup final following a nerve-wracking two-wicket win over South Africa in Bristol.

Anya Shrubsole steered a tense England over the line with just two balls to spare after they lost six wickets for 78 runs.

Heather Knight's side were chasing South Africa's 218-6, built on Mignon du Preez's unbeaten 76.

They will face Australia or India in Sunday's final at Lord's.

England scrape over the line

England required a boundary from number 10 Shrubsole to seal the win after they appeared to be cruising towards victory.

Sarah Taylor - arguably their best player - scored a typically classy half-century in a stand of 78 with captain Knight (30) to take them to within 80 runs of victory.

However, both players fell in quick succession - Knight to a wonderful catch from Laura Wolvaardt at square leg - and a collapse followed.

Nat Sciver (3) was bowled round her legs and Katherine Brunt (12) was dismissed charging the seamer, but Fran Wilson (30) and the experienced Gunn, with a run-a-ball 27, held their nerve.

Taking singles initially before being more expansive in the closing overs, they inched England towards victory.

There was still time for brief alarm when both Wilson and Laura Marsh fell in quick succession, but Shrubsole drove her first ball for four to spark wild celebrations in the England camp and reduce a number of South Africa players to tears.

England's Anya Shrubsole consoled South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk after hitting the winning runs - a scene reminiscent of Andrew Flintoff's famous embrace of Brett Lee in the 2005 Ashes series
England's Anya Shrubsole consoled South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk after hitting the winning runs - a scene reminiscent of Andrew Flintoff's famous embrace of Brett Lee in the 2005 Ashes series

Taylor the all-round star

Wicketkeeper Taylor, who is once again an integral part of the side after being sidelined with anxiety-related issues, was named player of the match following an outstanding all-round display.

She executed a brilliant leg-side stumping to remove South Africa's Trisha Chetty in a near-flawless display with the gloves.

To underline her importance in a low-scoring contest, Chetty - Taylor's opposite number - spilled two catches and was largely responsible for her side conceding 25 extras.

With the bat, South Africa's teenage opener Wolvaardt hit her fourth half-century of the competition and Du Preez impressed with some silky off side play and hard hitting into the leg side.

However, once again, England's bowlers were miserly - Brunt and Laura Marsh conceding just 22 runs in the powerplay.

Laura Wolvaardt took this amazing catch to end Heather Knight's innings
Laura Wolvaardt took this amazing catch to end Heather Knight's innings

Can England win it?

Since losing their opening match of the competition against India, England have won every game - topping the group table on their way to the final four.

They have the tournament's leading run-scorer - Tammy Beaumont - and in Sciver an explosive all-rounder who has hit two centuries in the competition.

Taylor and Knight lead a formidable middle order while, in the field, Brunt has bowled more dot balls than anyone else in the competition.

Australia are the defending champions, but England won it in 2009 and also on the other two occasions they were hosts - in 1973 and 1993.

The Lord's final is a 26,500 sellout and the International Cricket Council released a statement on Wednesday declaring that 50% of ticket buyers were female and 31% were under the age of 16 - suggesting the tournament has been a hit with some new cricket fans.

'Jenny showed nerves of steel' - what the players said

England captain Heather Knight: "It was hard watching on the balcony, but we keep finding ways to win in this competition and Jenny Gunn had nerves of steel at the end.

"Close games are the best to win and the worst to lose but credit to South Africa, what a game of cricket."

South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk: "We hope we made everyone proud. We needed some magic but we didn't get it today.

"We had great support and a great run. I don't think a lot of people thought we would reach the semi-finals and it's a testament to the team we have here that we did."

England vice-captain Anya Shrubsole on TMS: "The most important thing is that we're there. It's not how you win, it's getting over the line. Some people might disagree as it's not good for the nerves.

"Jenny had played an outstanding innings, she was really calm. I thought I'd chance my luck and thankfully it was in the one area I can hit the ball!

"I hadn't realised Lord's would be a sellout, but it's a huge thing for this team."

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