Friday, September 22, 2017 06:58:53 AM
AFP, Bristol :
England can book a place in the Women's World Cup final if they beat South Africa on Tuesday as they go in search of a first major trophy in eight years.
The pair meet in the first semi-final at Bristol, a ground on which they played out a record-breaking encounter earlier in this tournament.
Both sides surpassed the 300 mark on that occasion, going on to make 678 runs in total, the highest cumulative score in women's one-day international history.
Opener Tammy Beaumont top-scored with 148 and will once again be the key threat for England.
Beaumont and Sarah Taylor (147) shared a 275-run stand in a match where England beat the Proteas by 68 runs.
But it was captain Heather Knight who led from the front with a valuable 62 as England defeated the West Indies at Bristol last Saturday to finish top of the group table, having won six straight games since a surprise opening loss to India.
"The best part about our squad is that someone steps up every single game," said Beaumont.
"Heather had a crucial knock with the bat and then everyone did their bit with the ball and that's really important.
"We all need to be on form heading into a semi-final."
Their latest victory meant England could stay put to enjoy two full days of preparation in southwest city Bristol ahead of playing again in front of the loudest home support they've experienced during the World Cup.
They will, however, have to once again overcome new-ball duo Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail, described as the "best opening pair in the world" by South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk.
Contenders for the most improved side in women's cricket, this is South Africa's first World Cup semi-final since 2000.
Whoever wins this contest will play either reigning champions Australia or India in Sunday's final at Lord's.
Australia captain Meg Lanning is expected to return in the semi-final at Derby on Thursday, after being rested for the concluding group win over South Africa in an attempt to prevent her aggravating a shoulder injury.
Lanning, the No.1 ranked ODI batsman, missed two of the group stage matches yet still struck 328 runs.
Although favourites to progress, Australia come up against an India side that have enjoyed playing at Derby, winning all four of their previous matches at the Midlands ground during this World Cup.
Those victories included the defeat of England and Saturday's 186-run thrashing of New Zealand in what was a straight shoot out for the last knockout spot.
Crucial to both successes was India captain Mithali Raj, the highest run-scorer in women's ODI cricket, who made 71 and 109 respectively.
Raj will be relied upon again in the semi-final and she is relishing the responsibility.
"I'm extremely happy," she said.
"For a couple of us, this will be our last World Cup, so our first aim was to enter the semi-finals.
"I've always dreamt of getting runs for my country -- that hunger never dies."
Australia overwhelmed India by eight wickets in pool play last week but the Southern Stars, the six-time Women's World Cup champions, remain wary of Raj's side especially as they have yet to play in Derby this tournament.
"They'll be familiar with the conditions, so it's pretty cut throat, we can't afford to be off our game," said Australia's Nicole Bolton.
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