South Africa eased into the Women’s T20 World Cup semi-finals with a 17-run victory over Pakistan in Sydney.
Laura Wolvaardt’s unbeaten 53 from 36 balls helped South Africa post 136-6 from their 20 overs on a sluggish Showground pitch.
Pakistan limped to 119-5 in response, with Aliya Riaz making an entertaining 39 not out from 32 balls, but it was ultimately an easy victory for the Proteas.
It is only the second time that South Africa have reached the semi-finals in seven editions of the tournament.
India were the only other previous team to have secured their place in the knockout stages after winning all four of their Group A matches.
Had South Africa lost, it would have thrown Group B wide open – and could have made England’s route to the semi-finals that little bit harder – but ultimately England joined them in the last four after beating West Indies by 46 runs in the later game.
The semi-final line-up will be completed by the winners of Monday’s game between Australia and New Zealand in Melbourne.
Proteas stumble – but remain unbeaten
At 54-3, the Proteas were struggling. Lizelle Lee, who made a century in their last game, nicked the excellent Diana Baig behind, before captain Dane van Niekerk played a terrible drive onto her stumps and Mignon du Preez was bowled trying to reverse sweep.
Wolvaardt, in her first innings of the tournament, got to grips with the slow pitch before accelerating in the final five overs.
She hit eight fours – almost all of them coming through sumptuous cover drives – and reached her half-century off the final ball of the innings with yet another boundary.
South Africa’s big hitters were becalmed by the surface, but they also came up against an improved Pakistan fielding side.
They dropped several catches against England but Aliya took one of the best catches of the tournament, diving forward at long-on to dismiss the dangerous Chloe Tryon in the final over.
Pakistan crawled to 22-2 at the end of the powerplay, having lost Umaima Sohail to a comical run-out that left her stranded mid-pitch.
Javeria Khan, captaining the side after Bismah Mahroof broke her thumb, was also unfortunate to be dismissed, with Tryon getting a finger onto the ball in her follow-through to run her out at the non-striker’s end.
While there were cameos, such as Aliya launching Shabnim Ismail back down the ground for a glorious six, it always felt as though South Africa were in control.
Their substitute fielders ran onto the field to congratulate the jubilant skipper Van Niekerk as they celebrated reaching the final four.
The only concern for South Africa will be Marizanne Kapp. While the all-rounder, who missed the game against Thailand, batted at three, she did not take the field for Pakistan’s innings.
‘She is going to be a legend’ – reaction
South Africa batter Laura Wolvaardt: “This is definitely the most valuable contribution I’ve made to this team.
“Number five is a new role for me, but I’m enjoying it down there and I’ve got more freedom.”
South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk: “I am really happy to reach the semi-final. I have to give credit to Pakistan, they gave us a massive go throughout the whole game.
“It’s only Laura Wolvaardt’s third time batting at number five and for her to show her skill and get us to that winning total was incredible. She’s already an incredible cricketer but I think she is going to be one of the legends.”
Pakistan stand-in skipper Javeria Khan: “In the last few overs we lost our way a bit, it was a slow wicket so we should’ve restricted them to under 120 and then it would’ve been a different game.
“It was a good effort with bat, but we have to realise when we have to take charge. We started too late here.”