Brilliant batting from Claire Taylor and Beth Morgan saw England produce a stirring fightback to stun Australia in the Women’s World Twenty20 semi-finals.
Chasing Australia’s excellent 163-5, England were set back by two early wickets and the required run rate was almost 10 an over at one stage.But Taylor (72) and Morgan (45) put on an unbeaten 122 from 75 deliveries.
They got to their target with three balls to go, and now face New Zealand in the final at Lord’s on Sunday.
Inserted by Charlotte Edwards at The Oval, the Aussie batters seemed to put their team in the box seat, forcing England to concede their biggest total in this format.
Leah Poulton and Shelley Nitschke put on 79 for the first wicket in nine overs, with Karen Rolton and Lisa Sthalekar also scoring well later on.England were poor in the field. All the host nation’s bowlers bar the excellent Laura Marsh (1-12) proved expensive, and while two out of four dropped catches were extremely tough chances, the first – with Caroline Atkins spilling the big-hitting Nitschke early on – was not.
But the holders of the 50-over World Cup and the Ashes refused to give up, and thanks to the efforts of Taylor and Morgan can now dream of adding a third major prize to their cabinet.
Eyebrows were raised by Edwards’ decision not to bat first, but there was a positive move in the selection of pace bowler Katherine Brunt ahead of the consistent medium-pacer Isa Guha.
Presumably brought into the side in the hope that she might extract some bounce from the Oval wicket, Brunt did beat the bat at times.But she proved inconsistent and was treated with some disdain by both Australian openers, Poulton taking her for three fours in a single over and Nitschke for two more as Australia ended the powerplay period on 49-0, Brunt nursing figures of 0-30.
By then Nitschke had been missed by Atkins at mid-on off Nicky Shaw. And things got no better for England when Holly Colvin came into the attack, the slow left-armer’s first over disappearing for 11.
Nitschke really attacked Colvin’s second over, with a lovely lofted off-drive and a sweep bringing her consecutive boundaries, but a thin edge behind was snapped up by Sarah Taylor.
Off-spinner Marsh responded with a wicket from the very next ball, bowling Poulton, and five dot balls followed to leave Australia 79-2 at the halfway stage.But Rolton and Sthalekar were quickly into their stride, raising the 100 in the 14th over as Edwards conceded 13 runs in her first and only over.
A huge Rolton six from a Jenny Gunn full-toss signalled the start of the final thrash, and England were relieved when Brunt took a fine catch at deep midwicket to end her innings.Sthalekar was dropped twice in the 19th over before Brunt finally rattled one into her stumps, but another 11 runs were scrambled from the final over and the pressure on England’s batters was huge.England, with Edwards leading the charge, enjoyed some initial success with the bat – as 22 runs came off the first two overs.
Australia’s bowlers soon pulled back the initiative with some accurate bowling, and when Edwards top-edged a cut behind, there seemed to be a mountain for Taylor and Morgan to climb.But the two right-handers were by no means daunted by the situation, and roared on by some increasingly vocal support began to pull it back.
The spin of Sthalekar was attacked, wides and misfields helped England’s cause, and Taylor reached her half-century with a paddle-sweep for her fifth boundary.Taylor and Morgan were still together as the last three overs started with 27 needed, and two leg-side boundaries by the confident Morgan – playing the innings of her career – reduced it to 16 from the last 12 balls.
Taylor beat fine-leg for another boundary in the penultimate over, and just four were wanted from the final six balls, bowled by Sarah Andrews.Appropriately, Wisden Player of the Year Taylor backed away to hit a square drive through point, taking England to a win that seemed highly improbable at one stage.