Thursday, October 6, 2022

Redemption and glory – The ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 reaches the knockout stages

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The two semi-finals of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 have more than just a place in the final riding on them – they also offer all four teams a shot at redemption.

Australia will take on West Indies in Wellington on 30 March in the first semi-final after topping the table without dropping a point. 

South Africa finished in second after just one loss and will face a resurgent England the next day in Christchurch. 

The outcomes of those two games will decide who is back at Hagley Oval on 3 April for the final. 

Semi-Final 1: Australia v West Indies – Basin Reserve, Wellington – 11am local time 30 March 

The two teams set to battle it out at Basin Reserve on Wednesday couldn’t have had more different routes to the semi-final. 

Australia sewed up a semi-final spot with two games to go while the Maroon Warriors could only watch on as South Africa defeated India in the last over of the final group game to confirm the Windies’ place in the final four. 

It perhaps puts the pressure on Australia – and this is something they have been building towards since their defeat to India in the semi-finals of the 2017 edition. 

They bounced back with consecutive ICC Women’s T20 World Cup wins and are now on a quest to hold both trophies at the same time. 

Captain Meg Lanning has well and truly led from the front, racking up the highest score of the group stage with 135 not out against South Africa. 

She sits second in the overall run charts behind Laura Wolvaardt, and her vice-captain Rachael Haynes is one position behind her. 

Despite Australia’s dominance, they say they are a side still searching for a perfect game and were given a scare by newcomers Bangladesh in their final match of the league stages. 

While the wickets have been evenly shared among Australia’s bowlers – spin trio Jess Jonassen, Ashleigh Gardner and Alana King all have eight – one West Indies player is topping all the charts. 

Hayley Matthews has enjoyed a stellar tournament, scoring the first century of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 with 119 against New Zealand in the opening game, also taking two wickets. 

She has continued to pile on the runs and sits 11th with 226, the most of any of the West Indies players, and she is out front as their best wicket-taker too. 

Matthews is the only player in this ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup to have opened the batting and bowling and is thriving under the pressure, having taken 10 wickets including career-best figures of four for 15 against Bangladesh. 

Australia won by seven wickets when the two sides met in the group stages, also in Wellington, and were also the victors in the 2013 final, the only time the West Indies have progressed to the showpiece. 

So, while Stafanie Taylor’s side will be looking for revenge, Lanning will be hoping to maintain Australia’s sterling record against the West Indies having lost only once in 13 ODI meetings. 

Semi-final 2: South Africa v England – Hagley Oval, Christchurch – 2pm local time 31 March 

South Africa’s shot at redemption comes after missing out on a place in the 2017 final in a heartbreaking defeat to England. 

England chased down 219 with two balls to spare as Anya Shrubsole set up her final heroics by striking the winning four, going on to take six for 46 against India at Lord’s to hand England their fourth title. 

The defending champions have been involved in more tight encounters this time, losing their first three games by narrow margins to put them in a knockout mindset from the fourth group match. 

Having come through to the semi-finals, they face a stern test in South Africa whose only defeat came to Australia and have shown that the mental fragility that cost them in previous ODI and T20 World Cup semi-finals is a thing of the past. 

South Africa beat England by three wickets in the league stage as Marizanne Kapp put in a starring performance with both bat and ball, taking five for 45 in what marked the tournament’s best figures so far. 

Since that defeat, England have won every game as their road to redemption continues, and while their top order batters have failed to click at the same time, their spinners are saving the day. 

Sophie Ecclestone is the top wicket-taker so far in her first ODI World Cup, having taken 14 wickets, while Charlie Dean is not far behind with 10 having only made her World Cup debut in the match against South Africa.

Despite her wicket-taking exploits, Ecclestone has competition for the best 22-year-old at the tournament with South Africa opener Wolvaardt leading the run-scoring charts. 

Wolvaardt is still searching for a first World Cup century but has piled on 433 runs at an average of 61.85, with only Australia’s Beth Mooney boasting a better average. 

It ensures that South Africa v England, as well as Australia v West Indies, will be titanic clashes between bat and ball as the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 continues to serve up sporting contests of the highest order. 

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