England hold their nerve in dramatic win over South Africa
A fourth World Cup is in sight for England's women cricketers as Sarah Taylor and Anya Shrubsole guide them to the final
England booked their place in the Women's World Cup final after holding their nerve to clinch a dramatic victory over South Africa in Bristol.
Heather Knight's side recovered from a middle-order collapse as they chased a modest target of 219 with Anya Shrubsole hitting the winning boundary with two balls and two wickets to spare.
England will now take on either Australia or India – who play each other at Derby tomorrow – in front of a sell-out crowd at Lord's on Sunday as they bid to lift the trophy for a fourth time.
"Skill, nerve and tension merged together here in a crescendo that played the emotions like a banjo, providing a dramatic climax to a semi-final that rivalled any other nerve-shredder in any sport, anywhere," says The Guardian.
While Shrubsole sealed victory with one lusty blow at the death it was Sarah Taylor who did more than any other England player to set it up.
The Sussex wicketkeeper executed a sensational stumping off a leg-side wide to remove the dangerous Trisha Chetty as South Africa were restricted to 218-6 from their 50 overs, despite an unbeaten 76 from Mignon du Preez.
Taylor then top scored with 54 – her third half-century of the tournament - in a crucial partnership of 78 with skipper Knight to put England in control before they lost three wickets in ten balls to set pulses racing.
The runs dried up for the home team and the match reached a dramatic conclusion when England lost their eighth wicket in the final over with two runs still required and only three balls remaining.
But while her teammates and the crowd bit their nails, Shrubsole kept her cool to smash her first ball to the boundary to win it.
If England do go on to regain the trophy they last won in 2009 this weekend it will cap a remarkable story of redemption for player-of-the-match Taylor who quit the game following the World T20 last April and was unsure whether she would ever play again.
"For one England player, the triumph lay not so much in the result, or the fact that she won the player of the match award, but in simply participating," says Scyld Berry in the Daily Telegraph. "Sarah Taylor had given up the game because of 'anxiety issues' and only a year ago was unable to get out of bed. 'Congrats' said the England Women's coach Mark Robinson when she turned up for the start of play, for that was a victory in itself."
England will now wait for the outcome of the other semi-final with interest. It is hard to say who they would prefer to face at Lord's on Sunday having lost to India in the opening game of the tournament while beating their oldest and fiercest rivals Australia – the defending champions and six-time winners - in another nail-biter at Bristol last week.