South Africa open account with convincing win

From the lows of successive record defeats, South Africa bounced back in the T20I tri-series with a reassuring six-wicket thumping of England on the back of an all-round team performance at Taunton on Saturday (June 23). Putting up an improved bowling show, especially by the spinners, helped restrict the hosts to 160 before South Africa chased down the target comfortably in the final over courtesy half-centuries from Lizelle Lee and Sune Luus.

England, who opted to bat, were dealt with an early blow as offspinner Raisibe Ntozakhe had Danielle Wyatt caught by Mignon du Preez off the fifth ball of the game. Sarah Taylor tried to provide the impetus, hitting Marizanne Kapp for back-to-back boundaries twice during her brief stay but Shabnim Ismail cut her stay short on 20. Once Ntozakhe was bowled out, giving just 20 in her four-over spell upfront, Dane van Niekerk brought herself on to keep the flow of runs in check.

Zintle Mali reaped the benefits, taking out both Natalie Sciver and Katherine Brunt in her successive overs as the English tried to up the ante. However, Tammy Beaumont found the company of Heather Knight and went after the two pacers – Kapp and Mali – after bringing up her fourth career half-century. Ismail had her bowled in the penultimate over, for a 59-ball 71, but if it wasn’t for captain Knight’s boundary-filled cameo of 35 towards the end, England could have ended with much less at the venue where they posted a record 250 two nights ago against the same opponent.

The start to South Africa’s chase was no less dramatic, with Anya Shrubsole taking out Laura Wolvaardt in the first over itself even before the opener could get off the mark. But Lee and Luus took the attack to the opposition en route their 103-run partnership for the second wicket that lasted 11.3 overs and put South Africa firmly on course. Lee played the aggressor, hitting half a dozen sixes and four boundaries in her 37-ball effort, while Luus finished with an unbeaten 63.

Lee’s wicket – Shrubsole’s second of the day – slowed Luus down a tad but van Niekerk kept up with the asking rate during her brief stay. Sophie Ecclestone’s double-wicket over, where she accounted for South Africa’s in-form captain and the returning vice-captain Chloe Tryon, briefly gave England an outside hope of salvaging the game. However, Luus and du Preez ensured the 17 off 12 required for their maiden win of the series were knocked off with three balls to spare. Luus brought up her second T20I fifty with the first of the back to back boundaries that levelled the scores, before sealing the game with a six to ruin Brunt’s match figures.

South Africa, though, now have as many points as the other two sides in the competition, but a -2.95 NRR means their chances of a final appearance still look slim. England, meanwhile, take on New Zealand, who are currently leading the table with a superior NRR, in the second game of the Saturday double-header.

Brief scores: England 160/5 in 20 overs (Tammy Beaumont 71, Heather Knight 35*; Shabnim Ismail 2-27, Zintle Mali 2-39) lost to South Africa 166/6 in 19.3 overs (Lizelle Lee 68, sune Luus 63*; Anya Shrubsole 2-24, Sophie Ecclestone 2-35) by six wickets.

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