Ayabonga Khaka. Picture: REUTERS
Ayabonga Khaka. Picture: REUTERS

A plaque proclaiming Gloucestershire as the home of WG Grace‚ "The Great Cricketer"‚ has hung outside Bristol’s County Ground since July 18 1948 — the centenary of his birth.

But Nelson Mandela loomed even larger for the South Africans who were here on Tuesday — the 99th anniversary of the day their first properly elected president was born.

Eleven of those too young to remember Mandela’s 67 years of struggle for change would have hoped to give him a fitting posthumous birthday present.

It was not to be: England beat SA by two wickets, with two balls to spare in their World Cup semifinal.

Dane van Niekerk’s team fought hard, but even their high quality attack was always going to struggle to defend the 218/6 their batsmen mustered.

"We were 30 runs short but we went out there believing‚" Van Niekerk said afterwards.

England replied with 221/8 to win with two balls to spare and book a berth in the final at Lord’s on Sunday. Their opponents will be the winners of Thursday’s other semifinal between Australia and India in Derby.

Sixty-seven‚ then‚ was the magic number on Tuesday.

Laura Wolvaardt‚ SA’s opening batter‚ just missed it in her superb 66 and Mignon du Preez flipped it around with a gutsy unbeaten 76‚ her highest score of the tournament.

Together Wolvaardt and Du Preez shared a stand of 76 for the third wicket.

England should have won more easily than they did‚ but the South Africans were not going to go quietly.

None more so than medium pacer Ayabonga Khaka‚ who bowled her 10 overs unchanged and took 2/28. Wouldn’t you know it: Khaka was born on July 18‚ 25 years ago‚ in Mandela’s Eastern Cape.

One of her victims was Tammy Beaumont‚ the tournament’s leading run scorer‚ who heaved and was bowled for 15 as England stumbled to 61/2.

Sarah Taylor’s 54 put the home side back on top‚ but the result was in doubt as late as the 43rd over‚ when left-arm seamer Moseline Daniels saw Katherine Brunt’s charge down the pitch‚ corrected‚ and bowled her off her pads to reduce the home side to 173/6.

Wicketkeeper Trisha Chetty’s desperate diving catch to dismiss Fran Wilson in the 48th made it 213/7.

But that was SA’s last hurrah‚ and England needed three off the last over.

Shabnim Ismail took charge of the last six balls — and promptly dropped the first one after Jenny Gunn hammered it back at her.

A single accrued off the second. The third splayed Laura Marsh’s stumps.

In came Anya Shrubsole who put the fourth through cover point for four‚ and it was over.

Most of the South Africans sank to their haunches and stayed there. Marizanne Kapp‚ a tough-as-nails fast bowler‚ sat flat on the ground in the wasteland of midwicket‚ lost in her disappointment.

WG Grace would have understood. Mandela would have been proud.

Please sign in or register to comment.