Australia edge South Africa in rain-affected thriller to reach ICC Women's T20 World Cup Final

Australia celebrate reaching the final (PA Images)
Australia celebrate reaching the final (PA Images)
14:40pm, Thu 05 Mar 2020
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Australia's bid to defend their world T20 title is still alive after they beat South Africa by five runs in a rain-affected game at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Captain Meg Lanning led from the front, scoring an unbeaten 49, taking two catches and claiming the player of the match award as her team amassed 134-5 from their 20 overs.

In reply, South Africa fell agonisingly short of their rain-revised target of 98 from just 13 overs.

Lanning was superb as she struck a brilliant 49 (PA Images)

This is the sixth consecutive time the Aussies have reached the final, having only failed at the inaugural event in England in 2009. 

And they have emerged victorious in all but one final, losing only to the West Indies in 2016.

Having been put into bat, Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney got the home side off to a flier, before Healy was caught by South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk off the bowling of Ayabonga Khaka.

The Aussies regrouped before losing Mooney, Jess Jonassen and Ash Gardner in quick succession, leaving them floundering at 71-4 at the half-way mark.

But Lanning steered the ship out of choppy waters to help them to a defendable 134 despite the best efforts of South Africa's Nadine De Klerk, who took 3-19 from her four overs.

South Africa headed into the innings break with the clouds rolling in and the rain beginning to fall.

But in the blink of an eye, the weather had cleared and the incredibly efficient groundsmen had mopped up the worst of the puddles, leaving South Africa a revised score of 98 from 13 overs.

They began their reply by slumping to 24-3, with Australia in cruise control thanks to an impressive bowling performance from Megan Schutt who took 2-17.

Laura Wolvaardt provided the key resistance for the South African side, scoring an unbeaten 41 from just 27 balls and bringing her side agonisingly close to a spot in the final for the first time.

Despite her side always being behind the run-rate, she dragged them perilously close to the final but could not muster one final push as they fell five runs short, leaving captain Dane van Niekerk close to tears.

The South African captain left the pitch visibly emotional (PA Images)

After the game, Australian wicket-keeper, Healy said: "We put a half-decent total on the board, Duckworth-Lewis went in our favour but our bowlers were sensational.

"South Africa would have been licking their lips chasing that total, but we kept our nerve and took wickets at crucial times."

A visibly distraught van Niekerk also spoke after the game, telling Test Match Special: "It was emotional afterwards, to come short every time is difficult, but we win together and lose together as a team. 

"Unfortunately it wasn't our year. I'm heartbroken for the team."

The England team had an agonising wait before their game was called off (England Cricket)

Australia will now play India in Sunday's final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground after their semi-final against England was rained off without a ball being bowled, leaving them to qualify automatically as Group A winners.

Australia will be bidding for a record-extending sixth title, while India are set to compete in their first T20 World Cup Final and will be looking to emulate the emphatic performance they put in when they shocked the reigning champions in the opening game of the tournament.

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