Women’s World Cup 2023: South Africa pulled off a stunning upset against England to secure their place in the World Cup final. It was meant to be a walkover for England, a suggestion that had riled South Africa captain Sune Luus before the semi-final. “Oh, that’s great, there’s no pressure on us then, we can just go out and enjoy it,” she had bristled at one reporter during the pre-match press conference.
And enjoy it they did, from the moment Luus won the toss and chose to bat, through a 96-run opening partnership between Tazmin Brits and Laura Wolvaardt, who both struck half-centuries, before a quickfire 27 off 13 from Marizanne Kapp helped South Africa reach the dizzy heights of 164 for four. “We were the underdog today, and being the underdog makes you want to do better,” as Brits put it afterwards.
And enjoy it they did still more, as England’s “Jonball” tactics finally came to a sticky end amidst a record-breaking over from Shabnim Ismail, who, according to the TV speed gun, clocked 80mph – the highest speed ever recorded in women’s cricket – and a series of catches from former junior world javelin champion Brits, including a stunner at full stretch at midwicket to see off Alice Capsey.
After England stumbled to 140 for seven courtesy of an Ayabonga Khaka triple-wicket over, it was left to Ismail to sound the death knell. England needed 13 off the final over, and Ismail kept her nerve, rattling Heather Knight’s stumps in the process.
Underdogs South Africa upset England to storm into Women’s World Cup Final
“After a decade of disappointment, and when everyone had already written them off, South Africa had done it: they were into a Women’s World Cup final,” exclaimed the commentator as the Newlands crowd erupted. Maybe they enjoyed it most of all.
“As a side, this match doesn’t define us,” Knight said. “We’ve made a mentality shift and changed the way we want to play. It’s something we should be proud of, and it’s something we’ll keep faith in.”
England had reached 50 without loss within the first five overs, as Danni Wyatt and Sophia Dunkley repeatedly cleared the ring fielders by a matter of inches. “We started off very well, but we just didn’t capitalize on the start we got,” Wyatt said.
While Australia claim to be the best fielding team in the world, Brits made a case for the best individual fielder – her four catches seeing off Dunkley, Capsey, Wyatt and finally the prize wicket of Nat Sciver-Brunt. She took the last two with a bandaged arm after the team doctor had checked her over for broken bones, following her dive to snaffle the second. “My legs were so tired after the batting – I just reacted and it stuck!” Brits said. “Once they started moving me everywhere, the ball kept following me.”
Earlier, it had been Brits along with Wolvaardt who put England under pressure from the outset, reaching 67 without loss in the opening 10 overs. Knight turned once again to her spin triple threat – Sophie Ecclestone, Charlie Dean and Sarah Glenn – but this time, Plan A did not quite seem to work. “We just didn’t get it right today,” Ecclestone admitted.
In the end, it was a comprehensive victory for South Africa in the Women’s World Cup Semi-Final, who had shown their fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude throughout the match. “We’re very proud of ourselves, but it’s not over yet,” Luus said. “We’ve got one more game to go,and we’ll be putting everything into that final. We know we’ve got a tough opponent in Australia, but we’ll be up for the challenge. We’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain, and we’ll be playing with a lot of freedom and enjoyment.”
Luus was also quick to credit her team’s performance, singling out the contributions of Brits and Wolvaardt, who had set the tone with their impressive opening partnership. “Tazmin and Laura were outstanding today,” she said. “They really took the game away from England in the first ten overs, and we were able to build on that foundation. Marizanne’s cameo towards the end was crucial as well, and our fielding was exceptional throughout. It was a real team effort, and everyone played their part.”
Meanwhile, Heather Knight was left to reflect on what might have been for England. “We’re obviously disappointed,” she said. “We didn’t quite get it right today, but credit to South Africa, they played really well and deserved their win. We’ll regroup and come back stronger, and we’ve still got a lot to play for in the third place play-off.”
Overall, it was a memorable day for South African cricket, as they booked their place in the Women’s World Cup final for the first time in a decade. With their combination of skill, determination and team spirit, they will certainly pose a serious challenge to Australia in the final, and who knows – they may even spring another surprise.