England v South Africa, 1st semi-final, Women's World Cup, Bristol July 17, 2017

Pressure on England to do the running

12

Match facts

Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Start time 1030 local (0930 GMT)

Play 01:20
Can South Africa's attack lead the underdogs to the final?

Big picture

Four years ago, the possibility of England playing South Africa in a semi-final would've been scoffed at. But South Africa are here, and that is thanks to their consistent bowling performances and the format itself - seven straight games for each team to leave an imprint.

Dane van Niekerk and her team-mates have played a brand of cricket that has been reminiscent of West Indies in 2013, injecting fresh flavour into the tournament, celebrating every win with gusto. South Africa took the qualifier route to get here and the benefit of having a settled team - they've been playing together since February - has been apparent. By the time they landed in England, every player knew exactly what was expected of her.

England, meanwhile, are in a cocoon outside of training sessions and media commitments. They have even made efforts to log off social media distractions. Heather Knight and her team have the weight of expectation on them, because they are favourites, a well-earned tag after their six clinical and successive victories since losing the opening game to India.

The batsmen have been especially dominant. Concerns over Sarah Taylor's form, after she took much of 2016 out to deal with anxiety issues, were emphatically brushed aside when these two teams had met in the group stages. The England wicketkeeper struck a regal 147 off 104 balls with no less than 24 fours. Natalie Sciver, amid scoring tons of runs, has also introduced the 'Natmeg' - a flick between the legs to yorker-length deliveries. And opener Tammy Beaumont is the tournament's leading run-getter with 372 of them.

But if there's one attack that's capable of stopping England's juggernaut, it's South Africa's. In Marizanne Kapp and van Niekerk, they have two bowlers who have combined to take 27 wickets, much more than the cream of England's attack. On form, this is, therefore, a clash of equals, although the pressure of being hosts could weigh on England's mind.

Form guide

England WWWWW (completed matches, most recent first)
South AfricaLWWLW

In the spotlight

At her menacing best, Anya Shrubsole can be a threat on any surface. In this tournament, however, wickets have been a struggle for England's vice-captain. Five in seven games is a reflection of how batsmen have taken note of her threat and negated it by looking to play her out. She will, however, have fond memories of the last semi-final against South Africa, at the World T20 in 2014, when she took 2 for 12 in an incisive opening burst to seal the game.

Her contributions haven't attracted the same attention, but it's a direct acknowledgement of how tidy Trisha Chetty has been behind the stumps. Against Sri Lanka last week, she rose to the top of the list for most dismissals (134) by a wicketkeeper in Women's ODIs. With 97 ODIs under her belt, she'd want to get as close to that milestone of 100 right here at the Women's World Cup.

Team news

Lauren Winfield's form at the top is a concern, but, barring injuries, England are unlikely to make too many changes for a knockout game.

England: (possible) 1 Lauren Winfield, 2 Tammy Beaumont, 3 Sarah Taylor (wk), 4 Heather Knight (capt), 5 Natalie Sciver, 6 Fran Wilson, 7 Katherine Brunt, 8 Jenny Gunn, 9 Laura Marsh, 10 Anya Shrubsole, 11 Alex Hartley

South Africa are likely to bring back Chloe Tryon, a big-hitter who can also bowl seam up. Her services were missed in the loss to Australia. As such medium-pacer Masabata Klaas could find herself out.

South Africa: (possible) 1 Laura Wolvaardt, 2 Lizelle Lee, 3 Trisha Chetty (wk), 4 Mignon du Preez, 5 Marizanne Kapp, 6 Sune Luus, 7 Dane van Niekerk (capt), 8 Chloe Tryon, 9 Shabnim Ismail, 10 Ayabonga Khaka, 11 Moseline Daniels

Pitch and conditions

The league game between these two sides in Bristol produced 678 runs. This is a televised game, a semi-final at that, and the ICC, over the years, have focused on making such games more marketable. So expect a good bating surface.

Stats and trivia

  • Four England players have scored 250 runs or more in this tournament. It is the most among all teams - Beaumont (372), Heather Knight (333), Sciver (315), Taylor (297).

  • South Africa's only semi-final appearance came 17 years ago. They lost to Australia by nine wickets then

  • England have won 26 out of the 34 meetings between the two sides.

Quotes

"I came into the World Cup thinking I had the best opening attack in the world, at the moment I am starting to believe I have the best bowling attack."
South Africa captain Dane Van Niekerk

"We prepared a little bit differently, there was a different vibe around the group. A few people did things they wouldn't usually do on cricket, field, but that's international cricket. And I think we have learnt a lot from that. We've done a lot of work on how we deal with that pressure, we've made it normal to feel pressure. And that kind of open honesty helps "
England captain Heather Knight

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cricinfouser on July 18, 2017, 9:34 GMT

    Come on Proteas. Behind you all the way.

  • dj on July 18, 2017, 7:56 GMT

    IT would just make any female cricketer's day if our LADIES would win this tournament BUT first of all, get over this hurdle called England Ladies Cricketers. I would not be surprised if the English's aggression upfront and their determination to dominate, become their downfall... If our girls could be calm and outfox them, then its game (w)on. Proud always when we achieve or not. #SuidAfrikaVerewig

  • snehny0653467 on July 18, 2017, 6:52 GMT

    Whatever happens... Dane and the girls have done us proud.

  • amrita3463630 on July 18, 2017, 6:12 GMT

    England will wipe South Africa off, South Africa hasn't got a quality middle-order, and Van Niekerk has to move herself at least two slots up, kapp and Luus can come down the order. England have better spinners in their ranks

  • jaggui6602220 on July 18, 2017, 5:44 GMT

    chole tryon will play this match. is true ??

  • bethuel on July 18, 2017, 5:30 GMT

    I think the english ladies as firm favourates as they are they hv met they matchstick,and its to them to prove to their Honourable Queen tht they hv a considerable consistency unlike their Gentlemen who melt under pressure

  • pbcfl02321737 on July 18, 2017, 4:02 GMT

    I like how people are already calling the game for England. They may be a better team on paper but anything can happen on any given day. The pressures of playing at home can also get to them. It is why you play the game. SA is probably the most improved side of the tournament.

  • Steve on July 18, 2017, 2:58 GMT

    Eng are favorites by a mile before the match starts. Hope it will be competitive. After all, this the SF of a WC.

  • mohammad on July 18, 2017, 2:40 GMT

    England will win comfortably, by 4 wkts or by 40 runs.

  • dj on July 17, 2017, 22:55 GMT

    Let the underdogs set the stage alight and the wicket takers dictate the game.. Go ProteaPower!!

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