21st Match, Wellington, March 22, 2022, ICC Women's World Cup
(45.2/50 ov, T:272) 272/5

AUS Women won by 5 wickets (with 28 balls remaining)

Player Of The Match
135* (130)

Meg Lanning's majestic hundred helps Australia ace 272 chase

Laura Wolvaardt's 90 in vain as South Africa squander opportunity to seal a semi-final spot

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Meg Lanning acknowledges the crowd after reaching her ton, South Africa vs Australia, Women's World Cup 2022, Wellington, March 22, 2022

Meg Lanning acknowledges the crowd after reaching her ton  •  ICC via Getty Images

Australia Women 272 for 5 (Lanning 135*, Ismail 2-33) beat South Africa Women 271 for 5 (Wolvaardt 90, Luus 52, Sutherland 1-26) by five wickets
Who can stop Australia? That was the title of ESPNcricinfo's pre-tournament podcast and now, after Meg Lanning's team marched to a sixth successive win at the World Cup, we probably know the answer: nobody.
South Africa suffered their first defeat in five matches and missed out on the opportunity to secure a semi-final spot, despite putting on their best batting performance of the competition thus far. Laura Wolvaardt's 90 set them up well as they asked Australia to chase the second-highest total of the tournament and Australia responded with ease. Lanning's hundred, her first of the World Cup, formed the spine of the Australian response and they won with 28 balls to spare.
Although outplayed and out-batted in particular, South Africa were responsible for some of their own demise. They missed an opportunity to dismiss Lanning on 7, when Trisha Chetty did not put in a dive to take a catch off a regulation edge and then dropped four catches in a clumsy fielding display. Whether any of those would have made a difference to the final result will never be known but given how dominant Australia were, you'd be forgiven for thinking they wouldn't.
By the time Tahlia McGrath was put down in the 23rd over, Australia were 130 for 3, and Lanning had reached 72 off 71 balls. McGrath lobbed a full toss back to Sune Luus, who could not hold on in her follow through. McGrath had moved to 24 when she was put down again. She leaned back to guide a Shabnim Ismail short ball to third man but sent it head high to Lizelle Lee in the gully. The ball was traveling at speed but Lee could not hold on. At that stage, Australia were 188 for 3 and Lanning had reached her century. Three overs later, Lee put down Ashleigh Gardner at slip off the first ball she faced to deny Ismail again and two overs after that Lara Goodall dropped Lanning, on 119, at mid-wicket. Australia were 221 for 4 when Lanning was put down and needed 51 runs off the last 15 overs. She took them there in just over 10 overs.
Lanning's was an innings of complete authority as she pounced on anything short and adjusted well to punish the overpitched deliveries. Notably, she scored quickly, with a strike rate over 100 throughout her innings and shared in a match-winning, 93-run fourth-wicket stand with McGrath. Her hundred came off 92 balls when she sent an Ayabonga Khaka full toss to the deep square leg boundary.
Khaka conceded more than five runs an over, unusual for a bowler whose career economy rate sits at just above four, in an indication of how well Australia's line-up got on top of South Africa's attack. Marizanne Kapp went wicketless, and the replacement seamer Tumi Sekhukhune, in the XI because of Masabata Klass' shoulder injury, bowled seven overs for 68 runs. Ismail removed Alyssa Healy in the third over before Mignon du Preez pulled off a stunner of a catch at mid-wicket when Rachael Haynes pulled Chloe Tryon to her left and she grabbed the ball while airborne to leave Australia 45 for 2 in the 11th over. South Africa had some grip on the innings then, but it didn't last as Lanning and Beth Mooney put on 60 for the third wicket to take control.
South Africa did not seem to have the same command of their batting effort, which started slowly and only really got going in the second half. Wolvaardt and Lizelle Lee put on 88 for the first wicket, with Lee playing a supportive role to Wolvaardt's more aggressive approach. Lee scored 16 runs off the first 28 balls she faced; by that stage Wolvaardt was on 43 off 64. Woldvaardt's fifty was her fourth successive half-century of the tournament and came off 86 balls, with Lara Goodall at the other end, but it was not until Luus joined her that the innings got an injection of momentum.
Luus and Wolvaardt put on 91 for the third wicket, as Luus scored at more than a run-a-ball and was strong against spin. In the course of their partnership, Wolvaardt became the leading run-scorer at this World Cup, though she has yet to score a hundred, and Luus scored at greater than a run-a-ball. South Africa were 206 for 2 after 42 overs, with a score of around 270 in their sights but needed the Wolvaardt-Luus pair to finish. They were dismissed within eight balls of each other when Wolvaardt danced down the track to hit Gardner down the ground but found McGrath at long-on, before Luus top-edged a pull off Megan Schutt to McGrath at backward square leg.
du Preez's poor tournament and Australia's excellent fielding continued when she heaved Jess Jonassen over midwicket and Gardner timed her jump perfectly to pluck the ball one-handed out of the air. du Preez has scored 41 runs in five innings at this tournament and has not crossed 20 in nine ODIs this year. Her dismissal could have derailed South Africa but Kapp and Tryon were on hand for the finishing job. They scored 43 runs in 25 balls between them, including four fours and a six, to push South Africa over 270, which was considered par at this venue. In the end, it was made to look too little.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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