Australia vice-captain Alex Blackwell says the defending Women’s World Cup champions are embracing their status as the team to beat ahead of tonight’s crunch clash against South Africa.
While both nations have rubberstamped a berth in the semi-finals, they are also on a collision course for a rematch for a spot in the tournament decider.
Australia have lost just one of their six matches so far – a last-ball defeat against host nation England on July 9 – while the Proteas are in third position with a 4-2 record.
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England will be favoured to beat the West Indies and lock in top spot before the knockout phase, while New Zealand and India will meet in a match which will decide who qualifies for the semi-finals.
Australia enters the fixture in Taunton full of confidence after demolishing India by eight wickets on Wednesday.
They have also never lost a game against South Africa, winning last month’s warm-up clash by 103 runs and completing a 4-0 triumph in a five-match series against them in Australia last year.
While that series included a thrilling tie, Australia proved themselves as the superior side.
“I think it’s great being the team that people want to beat. I guess over many decades Australia has set a bit of a benchmark,” Blackwell said.
“Coming into this tournament, being ranked No.1, I guess that doesn’t mean anything once you hit the park.
“It’s great we’ve secured a spot in the four – that was our first challenge.
“Who knows, we may be having to play (South Africa) two times in a row, so (this game is) a really important contest.
"We know them very well because we played them not that long ago in a bilateral series back in Australia.
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"They really pushed us in that series. They still haven't beaten us, touch wood, but (today) will be a really big test because they always bring their best game, I believe, against Australia, being world No.1.
"They are a really competitive unit and they have some really good players."
Star allrounder Ellyse Perry has led the way for Australia with 311 runs at 103.66, including four consecutive half-centuries, and seven wickets with the ball.
Skipper Meg Lanning has also shone with 328 runs, including a best of 152 not out, while Nicole Bolton also has a century to her name.
Blackwell, who has been restricted to three innings this tournament, heaped praise on Australia’s top order.
“It’s a great batting wicket (at Taunton), so as a batter I hope to get out there,” she said.
“The middle order and the lower order haven’t had a huge amount of hits in the middle. Our top order’s been fantastic.”
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The three-pronged spin attack of Kristen Beams (13 wickets), Jess Jonassen, and Ashleigh Gardner (both seven) have performed with aplomb, while Megan Schutt (eight wickets) and Perry have both been solid.
Australia’s bowlers have rebounded well since conceding 8-259 in a three-run loss against England in Bristol, according to Blackwell.
“I think our bowling unit is functioning very well. We’ve got a great mix that’s taken the field already and we’ve got wonderful options on the sidelines, which makes the selection very difficult,” she said.
“Our bowling is back on track, perhaps after not our best performance against England with some sundries.
“We really minimised that in our last game (against India), so everything is coming together really nicely and it’s a great place to play cricket, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Tonight’s match will complete a gruelling schedule of seven games in 20 days for Australia.
“I think our fitness is being tested now,” Blackwell said.
“I know our team is as best prepared as we could be and physically we came into this tournament as fit as we’ve ever been.
“Now we understand why that was important. It is a long tournament.”
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.