England women 373 for 5 (Beaumont 148, Taylor 147, Kapp 3-77) beat South Africa women 305 for 9 (Lee 72, Wolvaardt 67, Hazell 3-70, Knight 2-52) by 68 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Three days after shooting out West Indies for the sixth-lowest total in tournament history, South Africa's much-vaunted bowling attack crumbled in the face of a brutal onslaught from Sarah Taylor and Tammy Beaumont on a batting beauty in Bristol.
Never had a team, in 14 completed innings prior, notched up a score in excess of 300; on Wednesday, England went 73 clear of that mark, thanks to a second-wicket stand of 275 - the highest in Women's World Cup history and the second-highest in all women's ODIs - to knock the stuffing out of South Africa.
Needing to pull off the highest successful chase ever, South Africa became the first team to score in excess of 300 batting second in a women's ODI, thanks to half-centuries from Laura Wolvaardt, Lizelle Lee and Chloe Tryon. But the magnitude of the task proved just too much, and South Africa fell well short, by 68 runs.
Taylor had spent a year out of the England team to deal with anxiety issues. She began the tournament opening the innings against India and Pakistan in the absence of Lauren Winfield. All it took was a move down to her favoured No. 3 position to find form again as she hit back with an unbeaten 74 against Sri Lanka. Against South Africa, she put up her finest display of batting since returning to the side.
Perhaps the 40th over of the innings provided the perfect encapsulation of the class and poise of Taylor's innings. It was the ideal mix of deft touch, supple wrists, brute force, sublime timing and laser-guided placement. And it was Shabnim Ismail, South Africa's fastest bowler, who bore the brunt of Taylor's pristine hitting.
Ismail's first ball strayed onto the pads, and Taylor nonchalantly flicked through midwicket. When Ismail tried to take the ball away from her, Taylor walked across early to clobber her straight down the ground. A half-volley was shoveled past mid-off using the bottom hand and a full toss was helped on its way to fine leg. Having tried just about everything, when Ismail tried dragging her length back, Taylor laid into a pull to dispatch her to the midwicket boundary.
The class of batting apart, the over also highlighted the mediocrity of South Africa's bowling. On a flat pitch where the ball came on nicely, it needed intelligent changes in pace to subdue batsmen. Instead, South Africa offered Taylor and Beaumont a generous mix of overpitched and short balls. It didn't help that they offered width outside the off stump and strayed on the pads all too often.
Taylor and Beaumont ruthlessly punished these errors. They were especially clever in their use of the scoop and reverse-sweep. The lack of pace on the surface allowed the batsmen to get into position early, and with both batsmen timing the ball impeccably, they routinely scored through the V behind the wicket, much to the frustration of South Africa. In all, both batsmen plundered 68 runs in that region, including 13 fours.
While Taylor took little time to cut loose, Beaumont was a lot more sedate to start off. With the sun out, Heather Knight, the England captain, had little hesitation in batting first on a Bristol pitch that offered little for the bowlers despite possessing a tinge of green. After laying a solid platform upfront through a 59-run opening stand with Winfield, Beaumont steadily consolidated in the company of Taylor.
She raised her century with a scoop through fine leg off Ayabonga Khaka's medium pace. The landmark had taken her 118 balls to reach, but once she got there, she too launched into overdrive and pillaged 47 runs off her last 25 balls. By the time she fell, for 148, England had lost a little ground with four wickets falling for 13 runs. But Knight's late 10-ball cameo, which included four fours, gave them a late surge and a total well beyond South Africa's reach.
South Africa's openers, Wolvaardt and Lee, added a solid 128, but it took 25.1 overs, which, in the context of the match, made for no more than a sedate start. They showed little urgency up front - with Wolvaardt in particular struggling to find the gaps - and it meant Brunt conceded only nine runs in her first spell of five overs. A dipping yorker from Natalie Sciver cleaned up Lee as South Africa broke through.
Wolvaardt stuck around and raised half-century of her own, but ate up 84 balls doing so. A slog over midwicket and a flat-batted thump over mid-off in the 30th over signaled a change in intent, but Anya Shrubsole ensured it was short-lived, getting her to hole out to deep midwicket three overs later.
Mignon du Preez and Tryon briefly kept England anxious, slamming 75 runs off 40 balls. But once both batsmen fell in the space of four deliveries - Tryon for a 26-ball 54 with the help of five fours and four sixes - South Africa slid rapidly.
England's performance wasn't without its share of downs. They dropped four catches that could have hurt them on another day. But the security provided by Taylor and Beaumont made sure no such thing would happen on this day.