Jenny Gunn and Anya Shrubsole held their nerves under intense pressure to steer England to a nerve-wracking two-wicket win over South Africa and into the summit clash of the ICC Women World Cup in Bristol on Tuesday. It was always a contest between South Africa's bowling and England's batting and the hosts managed to knock down a modest target of 219 with two balls to spare in a humdinger of a match.
With all top batters back in the pavilion, the job to steer the ship to safety was left to lower-order and Gunn kept her head cool and calm to do it with flair.
England needed only six runs off the last two overs but they had lost seven wickets. The penultimate over got them three runs and wicket of Laura Marsh in the third ball of the final over added to the drama.
Anya Shrubsole (4) walked to the crease and hit the ball from Shabnim Ismail to the boundary ropes to finish it off in a sensational manner.
Gunn came up with an unbeaten 27 when wickets were tumbling one after another.
Mignon Du Preez top scored with an unbeaten 76 to lead South Africa to 218 for for six after they decided to bat.
Opener Laura Wolvaardt also played a steady 66-run knock off 100 balls for South Africa but the total on board was never enough to challenge the formidable line up of England.
Nevertheless, the Proteas bowlers, living up to their reputation of being the best attack in the tournament, managed to stretch it to the last over.
Gunn, batting at number eight, played a crucial unbeaten 27 run cameo to take her side past the finish line after top- order batswomen failed to convert starts.
Yet again Sarah Taylor, who is in red-hot form, hit a half-century at top of the order to provide impetuous to England chase. She scored 54 off 76 balls with seven shots to the fence.
Openers Lauren Winfield (20) and Tammy Beaumont (15) raised a steady 42-run stand before the former departed.
Taylor joined Beaumont in the middle but the other opener did not last long.
Taylor and captain Heather Knight (30) then added 78 runs for the third wicket. However England lost three wickets in quick succession and Proteas were back in contest. But Gunn ensured that hosts England knock off the required runs.
(With PTI inputs)