Ismail, van Niekerk book semi-final berth for South Africa
South Africa women 104 for 2 (Wolvaardt 48*, du Preez 38*) beat Sri Lanka women 101 (van Niekerk 4-24, Ismail 3-14) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
South Africa's bowlers continued their red-hot form to book a semi-final berth after 17 years in the 50-over World Cup, with a resounding eight-wicket win in Taunton, and were helped by victories from Australia and England, who made it to the knockouts too. Shabnim Ismail's speedy 3 for 14 and Dane van Niekerk's 4 for 24 - her third four-for in four matches - bowled out a dispirited Sri Lanka for 101. The win took South Africa's points tally to nine and since India and New Zealand lost their respective matches, the fixture between them on July 15 will decide the fourth semi-finalist.
The match slipped out of Sri Lanka's hands as soon as their captain Inoka Ranaweera opted to bat on an overcast morning and a pitch with a decent grass cover. Her counterpart, van Niekerk, was happy to bowl and her opening bowlers showed why. Ismail bowled quick in the corridor, beating the outside edge often and built up good rhythm with partner Marizanne Kapp, who swung the ball to trouble the left-handed top order. Kapp struck with her first ball by trapping the big-hitting Chamari Atapattu for 1 with a slow and low full-toss in front of middle and leg stump. Shabnim's first spell lasted only four overs, but in that time, she beat Hasini Perera for pace, resulting in a mis-timed pull, and created a few chances in the gully region with a probing line and consistent pace.
Nearly three chances were created in the seventh over when Prasadini Weerakkody and Chamari Polgampola poked outside off and the ball went wide of or fell short of the gully fielder. Masabata Klaas' straight and accurate lines meant Sri Lanka had barely any opportunities except when Ayabonga Khaka bowled a few wayward lines. The third-wicket partnership resisted but yielded not more than 43 runs as van Niekerk's legbreaks accounted for Weerakkody and Polgampola in the 20th over when they top-edged off miscued sweep shots, reducing Sri Lanka to 49 for 4. Polgampola was caught by the keeper, Trisha Chetty, and the dismissal took her to the top of the women's wicketkeeping charts in ODIs.
Even though there were some patches on either side of the pitch to exploit for the spinners, it was van Niekerk's persistent flight above the eyeline that tied down Sri Lanka's scoring with three maidens.
Sri Lanka produced another brief period of resistance in the form of Dilani Manodara's 49-ball 25, after Shashikala Siriwardene dispatched the juiciest of full-tosses to deep midwicket for 9. Manodara stretched the score till 86 but South Africa's disciplined lines and regular bowling changes negated any chance to flourish. Van Niekerk returned to bag two more wickets - of Harshitha Madavi and Sripali Weerakkody - before Ismail's pace accounted for the last two wickets. Sri Lanka lasted only 40.3 overs.
South Africa were troubled only initially in the chase. The hard-hitting Lizelle Lee edged to the wicketkeeper for a duck in the first over and No. 3 Chetty played across the line to Ranaweera's left-arm spin as the Sri Lanka bowlers tightened their lines after the first four overs. Eighteen-year-old Laura Wolvaardt, the other opener, and the experienced Mignon du Preez saw them through till the lunch break, which was taken after seven overs, making Sri Lanka's hopes linger for a little longer.
Wolvaardt and du Preez were hardly troubled once they returned, barely taking the aerial route but sweeping to good effect to keep the score ticking. While du Preez used her experience and composure, Wolvaardt displayed attractive strokeplay with her high elbow to drive the ball elegantly.
Opening bowler Sripali Weerakkody put down a tough return catch from du Preez, who was on 34, and injured her left shoulder. Even if she had taken the catch, it wouldn't have helped Sri Lanka too much: Sout Africa were only 16 away at the time and took less than three overs after that to bag two more points.
Vishal Dikshit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo