Galle, Oct 2: The final day of first round matches on Monday in the ICC Women's World Twenty20 2012 saw England finishing on top of Group A after defeating Australia by seven wickets.
An unbeaten England will face New Zealand in the first semi-final on Thursday 4 October, while Australia will face West Indies in the second semi-final on Friday 5 October at R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
Australia and England proved why their rivalry is the biggest in the women's game. Both teams showed how high the standards are at the top of the women's game in a match that made for compelling viewing. At the end of it, it was England that walked away worthy winners by seven wickets.
After opting to bat, Australia powered its way to 144 for five in 20 overs, with most of the batters chipping in with useful contributions. Meg Lanning set the tone at the top of the innings with 39, but it was the fourth-wicket partnership of 55 between Lisa Sthalekar and Alex Blackwell, who made 28, that gave Australia the impetus towards the latter half of its innings. Sthalekar's 38 came off just 28 balls, with four boundaries.
Anya Shrubsole picked up two wickets for England.
The England innings was anchored by Sarah Taylor, who made an unbeaten 65 off just 53 balls to lead England's pursuit of 145. Her ninth Twenty20 International half-century was studded with eight fours, and it helped England reach its target in 18.1 overs. Danielle Wyatt added to the run chase with an aggressive 17-ball 33. All the Australia bowlers were expensive, with Ellyse Perry, Julie Hunter and Jess Jonassen picking up one wicket apiece.
Player of the match Taylor wasn't entirely happy with her performance, saying: "I struggled a bit at the start, my worst start probably. Charlotte asked me to just stay in there and focus on partnerships. Wyatt took the pressure off me with some clean hitting, and she made my job a lot easier. Nice to get over the line though."
Captain Edwards was ecstatic with her team's performance. "(It's) really pleasing to be going into the knockouts with three wins. Our goal coming in here was to win five straight games to win the cup, two more to go and we're all looking forward to it."
Australia captain Jodie Fields felt it was the quality of the England batters that made the difference in the end. "I thought we were right in the game till the end. Batting was pretty much how we wanted it to go," said Fields. "We must give credit where it's due. I thought Sarah and Wyatt were outstanding, they were undoubtedly the better side."
Fields said Australia have plans firmly in place for its opponents. "The positive for us is everyone is in form. West Indies is a very good team, we played against them in the warm-up, so we have an idea of what to expect and we have plans to counter them," said Fields.
While the four semi-finalists have confirmed their places in the ICC Women's World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014, the winners of the two play-offs will also go through to the next edition of the ICC World Twenty20. Bangladesh, being the host nation, will be the seventh side in the tournament and the final berth will go to the winner of the eight-team ICC Women's World Twenty20 Qualifier to be staged next year.
Scores in Brief
At GICS, England defeated Australia by seven wickets with 11 balls remaining
Australia 144/5 in 20 overs (Meg Lanning 39, Lisa Sthalekar 38, Alex Blackwell 28; Anya Shrubsole 32/2) lost to England 146/3 in 20 overs (Sarah Taylor 65, Danielle Wyatt 33 not out; Julie Hunter 17-1)
Player of the Match - Sarah Taylor