Captain Meg Lanning struck a century from 92 balls as Australia beat South Africa by five wickets on Tuesday in another statement-making performance at the Women’s Cricket World Cup.
Lanning finished on 135 not out from 130 deliveries and shared partnerships of note with Beth Mooney (21), Thalia McGrath (32), Ashleigh McGrath (22) and Annabel Sutherland as Australia chased down the previously unbeaten South Africa’s 271-5 with 28 remaining.
She was overwhelmingly the driving force behind Australia’s run-chase with her 15th one-day international century.
“We speak a lot about the top four trying to bat through and make those match-winning innings,” Lanning said. “It was me today. It will be someone else another day and it was just nice to be there at the end.”
Australia went into the match atop the tournament standings and already qualified for the semifinals with five wins from five matches while South Africa was unbeaten from four, on the brink of sealing a semifinal place.
In winning so impressively against its nearest rival, Australia made itself an even stronger favorite to win the title for the seventh time.
Australia again demonstrated its depth as star all-rounder Ellyse Perry bowled only three overs and didn’t bat because of an injury, yet it coped because of the extent of its batting and bowling resources.
Lanning inevitably was the Player of the Match, as she was for her 97 in Australia’s previous match against India. She was almost uncontainable, though there was a period late in her innings when South Africa pace bowler Shabnin Ismail tested her with fast and short deliveries just on or outside off-stump.
Lanning had to curb her attacking instinct during that period before picking up the scoring pace again.
“I thought Ismail bowled really well and I probably left more balls than I ever have,” Lanning said. “When it was that awkward length it was pretty tricky.
“She was bowling quick, she didn’t bowl any bad balls and that period of play swung the momentum back a little bit towards South Africa. So it was nice for me to be able to get through that little period because it could have been a little bit dangerous.”
Ismail finished with 2-33 and was the best of South Africa’s bowlers. But she lacked support from her fielders, creating chances but seeing several catches dropped.
That underscored another point that has become clearly evident as the tournament has proceeded. The team that hopes to beat Australia will have to produce its very best performance and make no errors.
Lanning and Australia were ruthless in their punishment of errors on Tuesday, taking advantage of any bad balls and banking the chances that came from dropped catches.
Australia also was outstanding in the field. Gardner took a magnificent catch at deep mid-wicket to dismiss Mignon de Preez during the South Africa innings, leaping high and taking the ball with one hand extended high above her head.
South Africa’s innings also had one principal driving force. Laura Wolvaardt made 90 for her fourth consecutive half century of the tournament. She put on 91 for the third wicket with her captain Sune Luus, who made 52, but South Africa still fell short of a total which was fully competitive.
It needed Wolvaardt to bat through, but she was out in the 43rd over.
“I’m still not going all the way, which is disappointing,” Wolvaardt said. “The pitch was good to bat on and they bowled well in the middle overs.
“But we did well to get to 270. We had the plan for Sune and I to take it to the last 10 and then whoever can come in and whack.”