As the Women's World Cup tournament reaches the knock-out stages, each of the four remaing sides have battled their way through the group stage but also suffered at least one loss on their way to the finals.
The premier women’s tournament has also seen top-ranked Australia breeze through their opening matches, but suffer a hiccup when faced with hosts England.
That sets up a semi-final scenario that has England hosting South Africa at Bristol on Tuesday (7.30pm AEST) while Australia travel north to Derby for a match-up with India on Thursday (7.30pm AEST).
We take a look at each side’s run towards the semi-finals.
Matches: 7 | Wins: 6 | Losses: 1 | Points: 12 | Net Run Rate: 1.295
The X-Factor: There isn’t much 24-year-old Natalie Sciver can’t do when wielding the blade, with her merciless-maiden ODI century against Pakistan replicated just 15 days later against New Zealand to prove that there are no second chances when up against the England middle-order batter.
Both of her tons have come at better than a run-a-ball, with the right-hander hitting a rich-vein of form, manipulating bowlers and fielders alike throughout the tournament.
There isn’t a ball she can’t score off, evidenced by her ‘nat-meg’ shot from a well-executed yorker by White Ferns quick Holly Huddleston. Her continuance of this run would hold the hosts in very good stead should they reach Lord’s.
The match: Already having posted more than 370 in an innings twice in the tournament, England’s batting hadn’t been tested in the 2017 Women’s World Cup, but up against title-holders Australia, their order couldn’t muster much momentum.
Restricted and well-held, no England batter posted a half-century as they stumbled towards 8-259 with part-time medium-pace bowler Elyse Villani taking three scalps.
And while no bowler took complete control for the hosts, they each did enough to stop the usual free-flowing nature of Australia’s scoring, with Ellyse Perry’s 70 the only thorn in their side, eventually holding on for a last-ball victory and peak position atop the tournament table.
The historic performers (v South Africa): England skipper Heather Knight has had a remarkable run in her previous four outings against the Protea women. The allrounder has posted two half-centuries but has only been dismissed once, leaving her average in that period at 176. Add to that two wickets in each of those fixtures, where she has played a major part in three victories.
Matches: 7 | Wins: 6 | Losses: 1 | Points: 12 | Net Run Rate: 1.004
The X-Factor: You need look no further than captain Meg Lanning, who has once again shown the world why she is the highest-ranked batter in the women’s game.
Her domination has been supplemented by her on-field leadership and when Australia need someone to stand up, more-often-than-not it is Lanning to take on the responsibility, averaging 109.3 with the bat thus far.
This was showcased by her highest ODI score of 152no at Bristol against Sri Lanka, unfazed as Australia were set an imposing target of 258 for victory. After chasing leather around the south-London field for the full allotment after Chamari Athapathu’s spectacular unbeaten-178, Lanning was thrust into the middle after the loss of Beth Mooney in the second over, and made the game her own, there at the end as Australia cruised to the total with more than six overs remaining.
Add another half-century against India to her 328-run tally as she continues to rack up runs for fun, already combining for two century stands with middle-order partner Ellyse Perry, with both women averaging above 100 for the tournament. The only downside to her stellar series is she has missed two group matches due to a troublesome shoulder, including her side’s final outing against South Africa.
The match: Australia’s opening match against the West Indies proved pivotal in providing a platform to launch from and showed the side weren’t lackadaisical in their rampant search for back-to-back titles, with Ellyse Perry’s figures of 3-47 backed up by a mammoth opening stand of 171 runs, Nicole Bolton scoring an unbeaten-107 as Beth Mooney contributed 70 at the top.
It was a complete performance with both bat and ball and lead to an eventual eight-wicket win in Taunton, Australia ruthlessly dismantling the Caribbean nation to wrestle two points away.
The historic performers (v India): Australia’s vice-captain Alex Blackwell has played the most matches against India of the current squad with 27, posting two centuries and six half-centuries, with her three most recent trips to the crease yielding 195 runs including a match-winning unbeaten 114.
Starved of time in the middle this tournament, expect Blackwell to make her mark should she get an opportunity and an extended period, looking to become the first Australian to win three Women’s World Cups.
Matches: 7 | Wins: 5 | Losses: 2 | Points: 10 | Net Run Rate: 0.669
The X-Factor: Facing the new ball quicks like South African duo Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp and Aussie spearhead Ellyse Perry can’t be an easy task, but India’s Punam Raut has thrived in the role where others have faltered.
She has compiled a stellar campaign, cemented by her century against Australia in her side’s eventual eight-wicket loss. Somewhat overshadowed by the record breaking Mithali Raj – who became ODI cricket’s highest-run scorer and the first female to pass 6,000 runs – Raut went about her 136-ball-stay with class and vigour, compiling 106 in a perfect mix of aggression and patience.
Her 86 against ladder leaders England showed she could match it with the best, and her punchy batting style has held up well in English conditions.
The match: Before their extraordinary run to the semi-finals, England were caught short against India, unable to deal with the touring side’s top four, who all contributed to the unattainable 3-281 – India’s highest score in the tournament to date – before Shikha Pandey and Deepti Sharma rattled the top order and removed the English top four within 32 overs, each of those going on to post centuries later in the competition.
The historic performers (v Australia): Before Punam Raut’s century in this series, only opener Smriti Mandhana had managed to post three-figures against the Aussie women. Her last three matches have produced 160 runs at the top of the order, including a blistering 102 in Hobart. Mandhana’s start to the tournament was excellent and whilst she has tailed off in recent matches, her thirst for runs against the Aussies is very evident. Aside from captain and regular performer Mithali Raj, Mandhana looms as a wicket that the defending champions must claim early if they are to advance through.
Matches: 7 | Wins: 4 | Losses: 2 | No Result: 1 | Points: 9 | Net Run Rate: 1.183
The X-Factor: After Mignon du Preez stepped aside as captain to focus on her own play in 2016, Dane Van Niekerk stepped up seamlessly into the role, and has led a resurgence back into the fray of this competition, reaching the semi-final stages for the first time since 2000.
The captain has at her disposal two of the world’s best pace bowlers in Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp but if new ball wickets aren’t taken, she often brings herself on to destroy orders. The leg-spinner has three separate hauls of four-wickets, with her figures of 4-0 against the West Indies the most wickets in history without conceding a run. Van Niekerk leads all-comers with 13 scalps at an impeccable average of 6.5 runs apiece, the only bowler with five wickets or more in the tournament to have a strike rate below 20. Her control and spin makes her one of the most dangerous change bowlers in the Women’s World Cup.
The match: Their demolition of the West Indies made a mark on the competition, with everything going right for the Protea women. Kapp and Ismail delivered with the new ball and obliterated the top-order quickly, before Van Niekerk sent the Caribbean nation into submission with an historic spell, before Laura Wolvaardt made light work of the chase, the South Africans home in a canter with more than 250 balls remaining and sending a message to the rest of the competition.
The historic performers (v England): Often it is South Africa’s potent attack that receive the plaudits in victories but against England it has been Lizelle Lee that has given the Proteas a chance. Her last three innings have resulted in scores of 69, 74 and 72 at the top of the order, helping her side to a victory against the Women’s World Cup hosts. A mainstay of South Africa’s top order, her campaign has seen her thrive against the new ball and add three half-centuries to her tally, showing good signs ahead of the finals.
Women's World Cup Guide
Australia World Cup squad: Sarah Aley, Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell (vc), Nicole Bolton, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Meg Lanning (c), Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.