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Knight: England committed to attacking future after coming up short in semi-final

Prior success against South Africa counts for nothing in tournament-ending loss

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Heather Knight looks down in despair after being knocked over by Shabnim Ismail, England vs South Africa, Women's T20 World Cup, semi-final, Cape Town, February 24, 2023

Heather Knight looks down in despair after being knocked over by Shabnim Ismail  •  AFP/Getty Images

England Women leave the T20 World Cup determined that their shock semi-final defeat at the hands of South Africa won't define them or do anything to alter their newly branded attacking style.
South Africa stifled England with a perfect performance before a 7,507-strong home crowd at Newlands to secure a place in Sunday's final against Australia, after asking England to break their own record for the highest successful run-chase at a T20 World Cup - they got within seven runs of doing so.
England put in a scratchy performance in the field as South Africa reached a total of 164 for 4, then lost five wickets in the last five overs of their pursuit. However, Heather Knight, their captain, credited the result to the hosts' ability to assert pressure, rather than any nerves on her side's part.
"There's certainly things you can do better," Knight said. "The experience of playing under what was an awesome crowd was a great experience and I think the younger players in particular will learn a lot from that. A lot of them have played in front of big crowds, but when there's so much on it and when it's a World Cup semi-final, that does add to it.
"But I think remembering, as a side, this match doesn't define us. The way we've made a mentality shift and changed the way we want to play a little bit, and really tried to take the game forward, is something we should be really proud of and we'll keep faith in. In T20 cricket, sometimes you're going to lose games unfortunately. And today wasn't our day."
The more assertive approach cemented since Jon Lewis's appointment as head coach late last year saw England, like Australia, go undefeated through the group stage where they bludgeoned 213 for 5 in a record-breaking 114-run victory over Pakistan.
"The way we've played has certainly been entertaining and it's certainly the way forward to being successful," Knight said. "There's always risk in playing that way, but it shows that we've nearly chased that down. That is the right strategy to go forward. I think we're building something nicely, obviously it hasn't quite come off in this tournament, unfortunately, and today, but I think the future looks bright."
South Africa, meanwhile, had dropped two group games, including the tournament opener at Newlands against Sri Lanka. They also lost by six wickets in Gqeberha to Australia, who have beaten South Africa in all six of their T20I meetings. England, too, had a favourable 19-3 win-loss record against South Africa heading into this match, and they had beaten them three times in as many World Cup semi-finals - once at the 2014 T20 tournament and at the 2017 and 2022 ODI events.
"We certainly believed as a side that we could win," Knight said. "The crowd behind them was certainly a factor, you certainly felt it as the opposition. I think they held their nerve pretty well. Their bowlers took it as deep as they could and picked up a few wickets, which meant the rate climbed quite quickly. They seemed pretty clear under pressure."
England were well ahead in the powerplay at 55 for 2 after South Africa had recovered from a slow start which had them 14 for 0 after four overs and 37 for 0 after six. Even at the halfway point of England's innings they were in front, but after Laura Wolvaardt and Tazmin Brits had laid a foundation with a 96-run opening stand, Marizanne Kapp held her nerve despite Sophie Ecclestone's two wickets in three balls in the penultimate over of the innings. Katherine Sciver-Brunt conceded 18 runs off the final over and Kapp ended 27 not out off 13 balls.
England lost wickets in clusters as Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka piled on the pressure, first with Ismail's raw pace and later by taking pace off and making it difficult for the batters to find the boundary. Add in Brits' record-equalling four catches, including a wonderful diving effort at midwicket to remove Alice Capsey for a duck - one of six England batters who failed to reach double figures - and the efforts of Danni Wyatt and Sophia Dunkley to get them off to good start and 47-run stand between Nat Sciver-Brunt and Knight was negated.
Amy Jones, who had contributed two valuable scores in the 40s in the previous two matches but fell victim to Khaka early on this occasion, said England simply failed to execute in the key moments.
"South Africa came at us hard and in front of a home crowd really put on a show," Jones said. "There were times when it was in the balance and we started really well for both innings and we were ahead of the game, so the back end of both innings is where we lost it and in the field at times as well.
"Throughout this tournament we've said we want to put pressure on the opposition at any point and stick to our strengths, and in the field that looks like completely attacking the ball and throwing yourself around and supporting your team-mates as much as possible. We did that, I think it was just execution and, similarly at the back end as well with the bat, we took positive options and stuck to our strengths, but lost too many wickets.
"We wanted to win this game more than anything, but I think going forward, it's something we believe in, something that we'll continue to do and will stand us in good stead."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women's cricket, at ESPNcricinfo