Australia defend 269, play India in semi-final
Australia women 269 (Bolton 79, Perry 55, Luus 5 for 65) beat South Africa women 210 (Wolvaardt 71, Chetty 37, Haynes 2 for 12, Jonassen 2 for 40, Perry 2-47) by 59 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Prior to Saturday's match, South Africa had never won against Australia in 13 completed ODIs. The closest they had come was in November 2016, when they managed a tie one of the five games of the series. Another had yielded a loss off the penultimate ball. That South Africa were able to bring some of that grit into their last league fixture this World Cup was largely down to legspinner Sune Luus' fifth five-wicket haul that restricted Australia to 269, and 18-year old Laura Wolvaardt's solid 71 that they could not capitalise on. South Africa fell 59 runs short in Taunton, allowing the defending champions to turn their attention to a semi-final clash with India on July 20.
Ellyse Perry was chiefly responsible for things turning out the way they did as she combined a 58-ball 59 with figures of 2 for 47. She ran Trisha Chetty out for 37 with a sharp throw from deep midwicket, and then removed Luus and Ayabonga Khaka off successive deliveries in the 39th over to clear Australia's path to victory.
Australia's spinners - Jess Jonassen, Asheligh Gardner and Kristen Beams - had done most of the damage, returning combined figures of 3 for 99 off 30 overs. While left-armer Jonassen took out opener Lizelle Lee in the sixth over of the chase, before adding van Niekerk to her tally of 2 for 40, Gardner and Kristen Beams ensured pressure was kept up from the other end as well.
In the absence of Meg Lanning, sidelined for a second time in the tournament with a shoulder injury, stand-in captain Rachael Haynes compounded South Africa's dismissing Mignon du Preez with her first ball in over four years. Haynes, who had last brandished her left-arm medium pace in the 2013 World Cup, also against the same opponents, dealt the more telling blow to South Africa's innings in her next over, toppling Wolvaardt on 71. The teenaged opener backed up two half-centuries and two not-outs from five preceding games with a knock full of substance, but she just couldn't do it alone.
That South Africa were able to bring up 100 in under 22 overs was, in part, due to Australia's sloppy fielding inside the circle. While Perry let an innocuous Wolvaardt drive, off Schutt, roll for four in the third over, Schutt dropped Chetty on 1 off Perry in the eighth, before Haynes joined in the comedy with a dive right over the ball at mid-off. Wolvaardt's departure, however, robbed the innings of the fluency and worse, triggered a collapse as South Africa lost five wickets for 17 runs. It was only Shabnim Ismail's 26 off 41 balls that yanked the total from 165 for 8 to 201.
Australia could have enjoyed a larger margin of victory if they had been able to capitalise on a 114-run opening stand. But neither of Beth Mooney nor Nicole Bolton could press on to convert their half-centuries beyond 53 and 79 respectively. And even Perry, who struck a fifth-successive fifty - a record in World Cup cricket - was sent back just as she seemed set to dominate. Considering little was going South Africa's way initially - by the 21st over, Dane van Niekerk had brought on a seventh bowler - Australia's batsmen would have wanted to make a stronger statement.
There was a mitigating factor though - the legspin of Luus. She got rid of Bolton and Elyse Villani in successive deliveries, and then denied Australia the firepower they needed in the slog overs by dismissing Perry in the 40th. She made sure South Africa were feeling good going into the mid-innings break. They just couldn't hold on to the feeling long enough.
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo