Crunch Time at #WWC17

There were three hugely important matches in the Women’s World Cup yesterday, all of which had bearing on who qualified for the semi finals.

At Taunton South Africa thrashed Sri Lanka by 8 wickets, building up a massive net run rate in the process. Captain Dane van Nierkerk was once again the star with the ball, taking 4 more wickets to bring her total for the tournament to 13. Conceding just 6.46 runs per wicket, and with an economy rate of 2.76 runs per over, she is clearly a major asset.

The televised match was Australia v India at Bristol. Meg Lanning won the toss and asked India to bat, which seemed like it might have been a mistake as we watched Mithali Raj (69) become the top run scorer in international women’s cricket, and take her career total over 6,000. Alongside her Punam Raut (106) scored her first century for the side. But although they looked very settled they were not scoring fast. When the team tried to accelerate at the end of the innings wickets fell rapidly and India finished on just 226.

Australia had made more than that at previous games in Bristol, including 256 against England just last Sunday. From the start it was clear that they were capable of chasing down the total. Bolton (36) and Mooney (45) got good starts, and when they were out Lanning (76*) and Perry (60*) finished the job off.

Finally at Derby England faced highly fancied New Zealand. Heather Knight won the toss and elected to bat, banking on her bowlers to win the game as they had against Australia. For a while they looked in deep trouble with Winfield, Taylor and Knight all going cheaply, but the reliable Tammy Beaumont (93) and hard-hitting Nat Sciver (129) enabled England to post an aggressive total of 284. New Zealand in response were never able to keep up with the required run rate and were eventually bowled out for 209.

One of the things that has impressed me about this tournament is the amount of ingenuity used by batters. Several of the England girls have been merrily deploying ramp and scoop shots that were deemed radical in the men’s game only a few years ago. Sarah Taylor plays them both from her normal right-handed stance and left-handed as well (and, baseball fans take note, to switch hit in cricket you alter your stance while the ball is in flight). Yesterday Nat Sciver produced a shot that I have never seen before, and one I suspect most male players would be rather nervous of attempting. Watch and marvel at “The Natmeg”.

All of this means that Australia, England and South Africa have qualified for the semi-finals. The fourth place is between India and New Zealand who face off in Derby on Saturday. The England-West Indies and Australia-South Africa games are also key to deciding who plays who and where. Pakistan v Sri Lanka is sadly only for pride.