A disappointing shot denied Nicole Bolton (79) her second three-figure score of the tournament. © Getty Images

A disappointing shot denied Nicole Bolton (79) her second three-figure score of the tournament. © Getty Images

South Africa became the first team to bowl Australia out in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, stopping them on 269 in 48.3 overs. Australia, though, turned on a middle-overs squeeze to complete a clinical defence. They extended their unbeaten record against the African side with a 60-run win in their final group stage match at Taunton on Saturday (July 15).

The match had little significance for qualification, allowing semifinalists Australia and South Africa to rest Meg Lanning and Chloe Tryon respectively. The teams perhaps took down their intensity a notch, with both seeming distracted and keen to get on with it in the semis.

Dane van Niekerk, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker, was South Africa’s best bowler, while her fellow legspinner, the young Sune Luus, had five wickets against her name. Fifties from Nicole Bolton, Beth Mooney and the ever reliant Ellyse Perry gave Australia a good total to defend, which they did despite a sparkling 71 from Laura Wolvaardt.

South Africa got off to a brisk start, despite losing Lizelle Lee early. Rachel Haynes, in again from the bench to captain the side, held onto a high catch offered by Lee at mid-off off the bowling of Jess Jonassen.

Wolvaardt’s cover-drives, though, were immaculately timed to scythe through the field. She kept up a good rate of scoring, ensuring her side were ahead of their opponents’ at the same stage. A nudged single through her favourite off-side region brought up her sixth career-fifty in 61 deliveries.

Trisha Chetty, meanwhile, built on from a dropped catch while on 9 to add 67 for the second wicket. A moment of hesitation in running for the second, however, saw her caught short at the batter’s end, and things unravelled for South Africa.

Haynes, who had bowled only six times in ODIs before, introduced her left-arm medium pace into the attack to get the big wickets of Mignon du Preez and Wolvaardt in consecutive overs. Du Preez, looking to punish a first ball loose full toss, mistimed to Ashleigh Gardner, while Wolvaardt too found the same fielder.

Marizanne Kapp, van Niekerk, Luus and Ayabonga Khaka departed in the space of three runs and three overs, through a combination of umpiring, luck, poor shot selection and good bowling.

Perry, bowling her full quota of overs for once, and Jonassen were in the thick of it, taking two wickets each, while Gardner kept up her impressive economy rate. Shabnim Ismail offered token resistance at the end, and was the last wicket to fall off the last ball as South Africa’s innings folded for 210. But the teams were only going through the motions by then.

Earlier, back at the ground where they opened the team’s campaign with a hundred-run stand, Bolton and Mooney added 114 for the first wicket after Australia chose to bat. As is their wont, they ignored the Power Play perks, getting to a steady 40 in the first ten, with 36 dots.

Dane van Niekerk, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker, was South Africa’s best bowler once again. © Getty Images

Dane van Niekerk, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker, was South Africa’s best bowler once again. © Getty Images

Having got to the drinks break unscathed, the duo looked to open up, with Bolton especially strong in the midwicket region. She went past her fifty with a couple of legside fours off Masabata Klaas. Luus was taken for three boundaries in the next, the last of which helped Mooney join her partner with a 51-ball half-century and take the team past 100 in the 19th over.

Ayabonga Khaka got the first breakthrough, clipping Mooney’s bails with a full and straight delivery. Next over, van Niekerk’s second, Haynes didn’t read one that dipped and stayed on middle, handing the bowler a simple return catch.

A disappointing shot denied Bolton (79) a three-figure score. Advancing to taken on a full toss Luus so temptingly offered, she hit straight to cover to be the young legspinner’s first of the day. Off the very next ball, Elyse Villani returned for her second golden duck of the tournament, ambitiously attempting a sweep off a flighted delivery that was full and outside leg, only to be bowled around the leg.

The 67 runs Luus went for in her full quota should be an indication of how erratic she was. She bowled a succession of loopy full tosses, one of which was sent over the long-on ropes for Perry’s only six. Yet, in taking her on, the Australians opened themselves up to risk.

Alyssa Healy, for instance, treated her full tosses to a succession of three fours in the 43rd over, holing out to a juggling Moseline Daniels while attempting a fourth down the ground.

That was the third in a series of wickets as she and van Niekerk halted the Aussie charge after a batting Power Play that yielded 39 and had Klaas sent off the attack for bowling her second shoulder-high no-ball. Perry smacked a short ball from Luus straight to Kapp at midwicket; van Niekerk, with a change of ends for her second spell had Alex Blackwell hole out to mid-on.

It was a chance for the Australian middle and lower order to get a hit, but the South African legspinners did well to pull things back, allowing them just 40 runs after the 40th over. Kapp wrapped up the innings in the 49th over with two wickets in two balls.

Australia finish the group stage second to play India, while South Africa are fourth and will play their semifinal in Bristol against England.