England reaches World Cup semis; South Africa ousts India
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Australia will play the West Indies and South Africa will play England in the semifinals of the Women’s Cricket World Cup after the makeup of the top four was finally decided Sunday on the last ball of the last match in the league stage.
Mignon du Preez hit the winning run from the final ball of the final over of the final match to finish 52 not out and lead South Africa to a three-wicket win over India. In doing so, South Africa snuffed out India’s semifinal hopes in the cruelest of circumstances.
Du Preez was caught in the deep with three runs required and two balls remaining, in a moment which seemed to swing the match in India’s favor. She was walking from the field when the umpires consulted the television official and determined that Deepti Sharma, who was bowling the last over from which seven runs were needed, had over-stepped.
The decision reprieved du Preez, gave South Africa a run, another ball and a free hit and they took the opportunity to clinch a win that crushed India’s hopes of reaching the final for the second consecutive tournament.
“I think we can feel sure that the girls have given their all, knowing the importance of the game today,” India captain Mithali Raj said. “It was just a good game from both sides. I mean it went to the last ball and it’s good for the sport but for the India team it ends our campaign.”
South Africa’s win also secured a semifinal place for the West Indies who were powerless spectators to the events of the final day. After completing the league matches, they were in third place with seven points behind unbeaten Australia and South Africa who both had qualified.
The West Indies would have been denied a semifinal place if India had won but South Africa’s win kept their tournament alive.
Earlier Sunday, defending champion England eased into the semifinals with a 100-run win over Bangladesh.
Sophia Dunkley made 67 and Nat Sciver 40 as England posted 234-6 as it batted first after winning the toss. Its spinners then shackled Bangladesh who were unable to threaten the total and were bowled out for 134 in the 48th over.
The pitch at the Basin Reserve in Wellington was slow, which suited spin bowlers but made batting tricky. Dunkley surmounted the conditions more than any other batter, taking her 67 runs from 72 balls with eight boundaries.
“It definitely wasn’t an easy pitch to get in on,” Dunkley said. “I thought the Bangladesh bowlers started really well, bowled really well.
“But me and Amy Jones (31) just tried to get in there, dig in there and get a partnership to carry us through to the end.”
Left-armer Sophie Ecclestone bowled superbly to lead England’s defense of its total, taking 3-15 from her 10 overs. Charlie Dean took 3-31 and Freya Davies 2-36 as England continued a steady improvement throughout the tournament to claim its place among the semifinalists.
England lost its first three matches in New Zealand and struggled to find its best form but came into the last day of the eight-team round-robin in a three-way contest for two remaining semifinal places.
“We’re really pleased. Obviously the job was to come here and get the two points and qualify for the semifinals,” England captain Heather Knight said. “I probably would have liked a few more runs — 250 or 260 — but the wicket was pretty slow and they made it hard for us to score.”
India set South Africa a more challenging total, reaching 274-7 as it batted first at Hagley Oval in Christchurch. Smitri Mandhana made 71 and set the tone of the innings with her opening partner Shafali Verma who made 53 from 46 balls. Mithali Raj made 68 and Harmanpreet Kaur 48.
South Africa then pulled off the second-highest successful run chase at a World Cup. Laura Wolfaardt, the leading scorer at the tournament, made 80 to set the platform for the innings. But it fell to du Preez, who has been short of runs in recent matches, to guide her team home.
“It means the world,” du Preez said. “It’s been a tough few weeks when I haven’t contributed the way I would like. But to do it when it matters and take the momentum to the semifinal, I’d take that every day of the week.”
More AP cricket: https://apnews.com/hub/cricket and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports