Australia powered their way into the semi-finals of the Women’s T20 World Cup on Saturday, while England looked their most likely challengers.
Australia were put under pressure by the Proteas and an enthusiastic home crowd at St George’s Park in Gqeberha, but won comfortably in the end by six wickets with 21 balls to spare.
In the earlier game of a double-header England remained the only other unbeaten team by inflicting a first defeat on India, winning by 11 runs.
Tahlia McGrath and Ashleigh Gardner ensured Australia would finish top of Group 1 with aggressive batting after their side had been in trouble.
Chasing 125 to win, Australia slipped to 40-3 but McGrath and Gardner went for their shots in a fourth-wicket partnership of 81.
McGrath hit 57 off 33 balls before being caught going for a big hit with four runs needed to win. She reached her half-century off 29 deliveries. Gardner made 28* off 29 balls.
Defeat was a blow to South Africa’s chances of reaching the semi-finals.
With only one win from their first three matches, they will rely on New Zealand defeating Sri Lanka in Paarl on Sunday.
The hosts will then need to win their final match against Bangladesh in Cape Town on Tuesday to force a three-way tie for second place in Group 1. Net run rate would then be the tiebreaker.
England won a top-of-the-table Group 2 contest despite a career-best bowling performance by India opening bowler Renuka Thakur, who took 5-15.
But Nat Sciver-Brunt (50) and Amy Jones (40) scored freely as England posted 151-7. India replied with 140-5.
“We started really well,” said India captain Harmanpreet Kaur, “but in the middle overs we didn’t stick to our plan.”
England captain Heather Knight said it was a good sign for her side that they were able to fight back after Thakur’s early onslaught reduced them to 29-3.
“We talk about batting according to conditions. It was good after three wickets lost early to show we can still punch out a score,” she said.
England, who play Pakistan in their final group match in Cape Town on Tuesday, are virtually certain to qualify for the semi-finals.
India are also well-placed to reach the last four. They meet rock bottom Ireland in Gqeberha on Monday.
© Agence France-Presse