McGrath powers Australia into T20 World Cup semi-finals

Australia have marched into the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup with a six-wicket win over hosts South Africa, sparked by Tahlia McGrath’s 33-ball 57 and Georgia Wareham’s 2-8 in Gqeberha.

Ashleigh Gardner, who took her 50th T20I wicket earlier in the night, helped the defending champions round out their group-stage campaign undefeated with her unbeaten 29-ball 28.

Her 56-ball, fourth-wicket 81-run stand with Player of the Match McGrath was the cornerstone of Australia’s successful 125-run chase in the second fixture of Saturday’s double-header at the St George’s Park Stadium.

No. 6 Grace Harris hit a match-sealing four-first ball as Australia overhauled the target with 21 deliveries to spare.

Earlier, the absence of their highest run-scorer in the tournament, Alyssa Healy, who was ruled out with soreness in the left quad, forced a rejigged batting order.

Ellyse Perry, promoted to partner opener Mooney in Healy’s stead, hit two fours in her eight-ball stay but fell prey to the South Africa’s back-of-a-length ploy in the powerplay.

Marizanne Kapp, playing her first World Cup match at her home ground, had the star allrounder caught by first-slip off a thick edge to the delight of an 8367-strong crowd.

Tahlia McGrath plays a shot during the match between against South Africa.Credit:Getty

Left-arm spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba then added excitement by having skipper Meg Lanning bowled behind her legs with a top-of-off-stump strike.

Mooney was next to depart, Kapp’s full-length pinging her toe plumb lbw.

A see-saw first 10 overs for Australia ended with them putting 3-60 on the board.

Gardner and stand-in vice-captain McGrath then took charge, riding their luck early as their wild swings sent edges flying beyond patrolled areas.

Neither pacers nor spinners could keep McGrath quiet.

The 27-year-old stroked a flurry of fours from almost the get-go, either side of the wicket, the second of three in a brace in the 16th over bringing up her fifth T20I fifty off just 29 balls.

A disciplined showing from Australia’s seven-pronged attack, Wareham’s 3-0-18-2 included, earlier restricted South Africa to 6-124 after Lanning sent the hosts in.

Australia coupled their sterling performance with the ball with enviable fielding, saving at least 15 runs through their boundary-riding alone.

Annabel Sutherland, Healy’s replacement in conditions favouring pace, could have had a wicket as early as her third ball.

But Wareham, stationed at short midwicket, shelled a straightforward catch off a Laura Wolvaardt pull, handing the opener a lifeline on 13.

The 23-year-old could add only another six runs to her tally as Perry got her to nick a length ball.

Mooney, who was shouldering wicketkeeping duties in Healy’s absence, snared it with ease to break the run-a-ball 54-run opening stand.

Wolvaardt’s wicket at the close of the ninth over triggered a top-order collapse, with South Africa losing four wickets in 18 balls for just 23 runs.

Returning for her second and final spell, Darcie Brown elicited a thick edge off first-drop Kapp in the 11th over.

Wareham then played her part with aplomb in the South African slide.

In a double-wicket 12th over from the 23-year-old legspinner, she first grazed the legstump of Tazmin Brits, the opener’s bid to shuffle across to access the leg side coming a cropper just five short of a maiden international fifty.

Four balls later, she had Tryon caught off a carbon-copy of the pull Wareham had reprieved Wolvaardt off, at the same position: short midwicket.

Gardner then found her 50th T20I wicket in opposition captain Sune Luus in the last over of the innings.

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