Tahlia McGrath led from the front with a match-winning fifty as the defending champions Australia claimed a convincing six-wicket victory over South Africa in their ICC Women’s T20 World Cup encounter at St George’s Park in Gqeberha on Saturday.
McGrath smashed a total of 10 fours on the way to a 33-ball 57 as the Aussies successfully chased down the Proteas Women’s first innings score of 124 / 6 with 3.3 overs to spare, with the five-time winners ending the round-robin stage unbeaten and atop the table in Group 1.
Under the overcast conditions of the Windy City, Australia won the toss and elected to bowl first but it was the South Africans who made a strong start as Laura Wolvaardt and Tazmin Brits went about laying a solid foundation with the bat, putting on a 54-run stand for the opening wicket.
The visitors’ breakthrough eventually came via the legendary arm of Ellyse Perry (1 / 8) as she had Wolvaardt caught behind for 19. That wicket did little to slow down her opening partner, as Brits stepped on the gas, dispatching the game’s first six over cow corner as the hosts reached the halfway stage of their innings on 65 / 1.
Following a steady initial period at the crease for South Africa, the innings’ momentum quickly shifted in the favour of Australia as the home side lost three wickets for just seven runs, with Marizanne Kapp (0), Brits (45) and Chloé Tryon (1) all sent back to the dugout to leave the Proteas 77 / 4 in the 12th over.
In typical world champion fashion, Australia maintained their stronghold in the game as they stayed disciplined with the ball to keep the South African batters at bay throughout the second half of the innings, restricting them to no more than six runs per over.
Cameos from Suné Luus (20), Delmi Tucker (7) and Nadine de Klerk (14*) helped get South Africa into three figures as they finished their allotted 20 overs on 124 / 6, while Australia’s Georgia Wareham was the pick of the bowlers with figures of two for 18.
With the ball, South Africa made a positive start against the Australian batters. The experienced Kapp (2 / 21) made the all-important early inroads, removing both openers Perry (11) and Beth Mooney (20), with Nonkululeko Mlaba’s (1 / 29) wicket of Meg Lanning (1) sandwiched in-between as the Proteas limited the away side to 40 / 3 after 7 overs.
Tasked with a rebuild job for their side, new batters Ashleigh Gardner (28*) and McGrath combined brilliantly for a pivotal 79-run partnership for the fourth wicket, with the latter taking the game to the South Africans to record her fifth T20I half-century to put Australia firmly in the driving seat.
Player of the Match McGrath was eventually dismissed off the bowling of Masabata Klaas (1 / 18) but it was a little too late for the Proteas as Australia sealed a comfortable victory in the 17th over.
South Africa will now travel back to Cape Town for their final Group 1 fixture against Bangladesh on Tuesday, 21 February, with the hopes of a semi-final spot hanging in the balance as all eyes turn to the clash between New Zealand and Sri Lanka taking place on tomorrow evening.
GQEBERHA, SOUTH AFRICA – FEBRUARY 18: Tahlia Mcgrath of Australia during the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup match between South Africa and Australia at St George’s Park on February 18, 2023 in Gqeberha, South Africa. (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images)