Amid uncertain weather, a barely play-able pitch (as seen during the final overs, made dampened by lots of rains), and the nervousness that comes with playing a semi-final, Australia women kept their cool in restricting Dane van Niekerk’s Proteas women just 5 runs shy of a D/L ask of 98, in a tense rain-affected contest to register a fine victory.
It’s one thing to come up trumps in a semi final. But it required something special to contain a seemingly unstoppable Proteas Women, who entered the game at the break of a hot streak of 3 consecutive wins.
The Big Stage of Women’s T20 World Cup
Therefore, in booking the ultimate slot for what now promises to be another belter of a contest, the final slated for March 8, Australia Women will now focus all their energies in defending their T20 world cup crown, a title they’ve earned on four separate occasions, the most for a team when compared to all contemporaries.
For now, they’ll draw inspiration from a special win, particularly when at the halfway stage the barely 130-plus score hardly seemed difficult for a Proteas camp having several in-form batters in Lizelle Lee, Mignon du Preez, and Dane van Niekerk. Not that any stars dished out meaningful scores, barring Wolvaardt, whose solo heroics- 41 off just 27 (featuring 2 sixes) kept South Africa very much in the hunt as the experienced batters departed early.
While the Proteas batting core didn’t last for that long, Wolvardt was in her elements.
How did the equation read for SA in the end?
With all eyes resting on the final over- with 19 needed of 6- it was always going to tough.
Even then, Wolvaardt, who kept upping the ante in the dying stages. went on to gather 13 along with Nadine de Klerk.
How improbable given Australian bowlers’ fightback was that?
The alone hero
Taking things in her own hands, Wolvaardt indicated rich form in the 10th over, in particular, where first she adjusted her weight beautifully, using the depth of the crease to lift Carey over cover for a boundary, following it up with another delightful stroke on the off-side.
While early dismissals of Lee and Niekerk, 10, and 12, respectively saw South Africa lose both openers in barely the space of an over; Wolvaardt’s heroics lent a few sparks after Australian bowlers had doused the Protea fire.
But it wasn’t going to be enough, right?
It could be said, in an immensely engaging tussle between South Africa’s enterprising talents and quintessential Australian doggedness, the latter prevailed at the back of an incredible team effort. The bowlers did it for Australia as Lanning- in her “run-a-ball” 49- led from the front.
Australian bowlers fightback
You couldn’t say which bowler ruled the roost as Megan Schutt- 2 for 17 off her 3- was equally brilliant in staying true to her reputation as the Numero Uno T20 bowler (in the world) as was Delissa Kimmince in her excellently controlled spell of 1 for 16 off her 3.
Together, the medium pace duo dismissed the prominent Protean troika comprising Van Niekerk, du Preez, and Sune Luus, the latter scoring 21 off South Africa’s 92 runs.
Schutt struck early as a straighter delivery skidded off the surface to disturb Van Niekerk’s timber, there was little the South African captain could do then.
But by that time Molineux had already sent Lee Packing, the right-hander offering a simple catch to wide long-on, on a fairly simple delivery that could’ve been treated more cautiously, the team earning a boundary just a delivery ago.
Anyone who said pressure makes you do silly things couldn’t have put it aptly.
The Luus-Wolvaardt stand amid the pressure
And so arrived Sune Luus, who first played the repairer alongside Wolvaardt in a 47-run stand, her team already struggling with 3 down for 24 in the 5th over, before unleashing herself on the medium pacers.
From the onset of the 6th over until the middle of the twelfth, the duo hung in there, enabling South Africa to claw back into the game, the only time ever where the Australian bowlers were defied any wickets thanks to a constant rotation of strike.
But damage would be inflicted yet again as Luus- 21 off 22- would eventually fall in the penultimate over, a classic slower one by Schutt prompting the right-hander to offer catching practice to Beth Mooney stationed at long-off.
The final nail in the coffin
As the Proteas women lost the last of their recognized batter, before Tryon fell only a few balls later, the feeling of a heart-breaking loss was evident and too overwhelming to avoid.
On most other days, Chloe Tryon, with a strike rate well into the 160s during the death overs would’ve deposited the banal, rather pale full toss (Jonassen) into the stands.
Spare a thought for the Proteas women!
But guess that just wasn’t South Africa’s day, who before faltering in their run-chase, albeit showing signs of patchy brilliance, though, thanks largely to Luus and Wolvaardt, didn’t put a foot wrong in their bowling inning.
How can we deny South Africa the plaudits they so richly deserve after they found an Ellyse Perry-less Australia wanting at 3 for 69 inside the 10th over?
How Australia’s inning panned out?
Getting the destructive Healy early wasn’t their only gain early up during Australia’s inning. They’d remove the cautious Beth Mooney, 28 off 24 featuring in a 34-run stand- thanks to Nadine de Klerk, who’d breach past the defences of the leftie.
A run later, Australia already sensing trouble at 68 for 2 in the 9th over would lose Jess Jonassen.
Mlaba gets Jonassen
In a classic instance of a left-arm spinner removing another, the often-undersung Mlaba prompted an airy shot from the left-hander. Jonassen making 1 as Australia now sensed trouble at 69 for 3.
If that wasn’t all to evoke bright smiles from the South African camp with a rain-soaked Sydney sensing an Australian nosedive, the smiles turned brighter as Gardner- the next batter- offered Trisha Chetty a faint edge, an Aussie batter walking back without troubling the scorers.
South Africa were right on Australia’s heels, the hosts capitulating at 4 for 71 in the eleventh over.
Lanning, the eventual player of the match for her run-a-ball 49, arguably the most important knock in the context of the match, oversaw all the destruction watching helplessly at the other end.
In walked Rachael Haynes in a bid to save her team.
What did we learn in the end?
Though the 32-run stand would take its own sweet time to unfold, the fact that South African bowlers were denied wickets for nearly 6 overs paved way for the great Australian comeback.
For a team that had lost all its premier batters with only 4 overs remaining, Lanning’s useful, determined knock ensured Australia collected 31 off their final 24 deliveries as Carey held onto an end, giving company to the inspirational “mega-star!”
If you were an Australian fan, you couldn’t have asked for more. The modest team total backed up by a sensational spell of spin and medium pace doing the job scripting a deserving win in the end.
But if you were a Protrean supporter, someone who had witnessed inspirational wins, first against England, featuring a thrilling du Preez six in the final over (vs Brunt), later against Pakistan and finally, a record-shattering win versus Thailand- you were gutted.
Yet, let it not be forgotten we did witness a game as enthralling as any we’ve come to witness in the longest time.