England join Australia in Women’s Cricket World Cup final | Loop Jamaica

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Defending champion England will face six-time champion Australia in the final of the Women’s Cricket World Cup after beating South Africa by 137 runs Thursday in the tournament’s second semifinal at Christchurch.

Australia beat the West Indies by 157 runs in the first of the semifinals Wednesday.

England began the tournament with three straight losses but sealed their place in back-to-back finals with a massive form reversal which culminated Thursday in their fifth consecutive victory.

Opener Danni Wyatt made a career-best 129 from 125 balls as England posted 293 for eight after being asked by South Africa to bat first.

Anya Shrubsole claimed the critical wicket of opener Laura Wolvaardt for a duck in the second over South Africa’s reply and Sophie Ecclestone took six for 36 — the best figures of the tournament — as England bowled out the South Africans for 156 in 38 overs.

Wolvaardt had been the leading batter at the tournament with scores of 41, 75, 77, 67, 90, 3 and 80, for 433 runs at 61.8, prior to the semifinals. Her early loss was a massive blow to South Africa’s hopes of reaching their first World Cup final.

South Africa came into the tournament ranked second in the world behind Australia and played to that ranking. Their only loss in the eight-team round-robin was to Australia, which are unbeaten ahead of Sunday’s final.

England, after their early losses to Australia, the West Indies and South Africa, steadily improved and, playing knockout cricket through their last five matches, fully turned the corner with wins over host New Zealand and India which clinched their semifinal spot.

Still, it was the underdog when the semifinals began and Wyatt upended expectations with an extraordinary innings which unfolded with the assistance of the South Africa fielders who dropped her five times, at 22, 36, 77, 116 and 118. Wyatt wasn’t used as an opener at the start of the tournament but was forced into that role and came into her own at Hagley Oval in Christchurch.

South Africa’s bowlers either were too full or too short and Wyatt reveled in the opportunities the errant length and width provided. She hit powerfully through the offside forward of point and rifled short balls to the boundary behind square.

England lost opener Tammy Beaumont in the fourth over but Wyatt held together the innings and built partnerships whenever possible. The best produced 116 runs for the fifth wicket with Sophie Dunkley, who made 60 from 72 balls.

Wyatt finally was out in the 45th over but England’s total was made more substantial by Sophie Ecclestone, who hit 24 runs from 11 balls before falling to the last ball of the innings.

Shrubsole then knocked off the top of the South Africa innings when she dismissed Wolvaardt and Lizelle Lee within the first four overs.

Ecclestone then produced an outstanding performance to ensure South Africa had no chance of recovering, living up to her billing as the No. 1-ranked bowler in women’s one-day internationals.