A maiden World Cup hundred from Danni Wyatt and six for 36 from Sophie Ecclestone – her first five-wicket haul in international cricket – powered England into the World Cup final as they handed South Africa a 137-run defeat at Christchurch on Thursday.
England amassed 293 for eight before Ecclestone, brought into the attack unusually late in the 24th over, ripped through South Africa’s lower order to cement her position as the leading tournament wicket-taker, taking all of the last six wickets to fall. For England, the comprehensive win completes a remarkable turnaround in the tournament, which began with three losses and likely elimination for the defending champions, before securing five wins on the trot at the business end.
They face Australia in the tournament final at the same ground on Sunday, after the world’s No 1 side walloped West Indies by 157 runs in their own semi-final 24 hours previously.
Wyatt, who missed out on England’s World Cup victory in 2017, said: “[I] woke up this morning and really wanted to contribute to a win today and that’s what happened. Obviously [I] got dropped a few times but that’s cricket and you’ve got to cash in on days like today.”
“Soph bowled exceptionally well again today. She was absolutely unplayable, especially with that pace and dip, a bit of turn as well. She’s not fun to face in the nets that’s for sure.”
Wyatt was ably supported by a second consecutive half-century from Sophia Dunkley (60 from 72 balls), the pair sharing a partnership of 116 after England found themselves in some difficulty at 126 for four.
Wyatt was eventually dismissed by Masabata Klaas in the 45th over, while Dunkley fell in the 50th, caught at mid-off trying to hit Shabnim Ismail (three for 46) over the top. But Ecclestone (24 off 11) then incurred Ismail’s wrath by punishing her for three consecutive boundaries, the third lofted straight back over her head. In all, England scored 31 runs from the final three overs, ensuring South Africa would require the highest successful chase in women’s ODI history to reach the final.
Instead, their exit was as good as sealed before Ecclestone even bowled a ball after a hooping opening spell from Anya Shrubsole reduced them to eight for two. Lizelle Lee flicked an inswinger straight to Nat Sciver at midwicket to wrap up a fruitless tournament, but the hammer blow was the loss of Laura Wolvaardt – the tournament’s leading run-scorer – caught and bowled for a duck just eight balls into the chase.
Kate Cross and Charlie Dean once again made breakthroughs in the opening overs of their respective spells – Cross bowling the captain, Sune Luus (21), through the gate with a beauty that moved back in off the seam.
South Africa were 86 for four when Ecclestone entered the fray, but she quickly dented their chase further, seeing off Marizanne Kapp, Chloe Tryon and Mignon du Preez in three successive overs – Kapp and Du Preez were both bowled trying to take on the left-armer. When Klaas holed out to point seven overs later, Ecclestone celebrated her five-for with gusto: four balls later, she had Trisha Chetty stumped and there was even more to celebrate.
Earlier in the tournament, England had sunk themselves by fluffing chances against South Africa. This time around, the boot was firmly on the other foot, with Wyatt handed lives on 22, 36 and 77. The first came in the 10th – Wyatt was shelled at slip by a diving Lee – before, two overs later, Kapp put her down running backwards at midwicket. Then, after Wyatt had whipped out a paddle sweep to bring up her half-century in the 19th, Lara Goodall failed to pick out a catch at deep midwicket and the ball trickled across the boundary rope.
Unfazed, Wyatt progressed to her second ODI ton with her trademark aggression and confidence, swivel-pulling Klaas to move to 99 before a scrambled single through the offside brought up three figures. Two further chances would go down – including a dolly by Ismail in the deep – before South Africa finally clung on to one at short third man to see her off. By that time, Wyatt had smashed 129 runs from 125 balls. England began this tournament with a question mark hanging over their choice of opening pair; on Thursday Wyatt – who has previously made no secret that she wants to open the batting in all formats for England – definitively claimed the spot for her own.
Earlier, after opting to bowl first, South Africa had started firmly on top. Tammy Beaumont was struck on her helmet by a vicious Ismail bouncer in the first over of the day, and edged Kapp behind the stumps shortly afterwards. Wyatt got under way at the other end with back-to-back cuts to the boundary – her most prolific shot of the day – but Heather Knight looked distinctly uncomfortable, playing out 18 dot balls and scoring only one run.
The England captain was finally dismissed by Ayabonga Khaka in the 13th over, after South Africa successfully reviewed a close lbw call against her. Sciver also departed cheaply, and though Amy Jones helped England shift up the gears with a quickfire 28 from 32 balls, Tryon snaffled an excellent catch at midwicket in the 26th over to see her off, leaving Wyatt and Dunkley to take up the mantle.
South Africa had only lost once in the tournament before the semi-final – to favourites Australia – and Luus, was left to rue their fielding mistakes. “I think we always pride ourselves on our fielding and to not take those chances tonight, I think as a fielding unit we are very disappointed in that,” Luus said. “But at the end of the day, I still think 290 was a good score to chase. We just didn’t apply ourselves with the bat.”