Potchefstroom, Jan 27 (IANS) England held their nerve to set up a final clash with India in the inaugural edition of ICC Under-19 Womens T20 World Cup after beating Australia by just three runs in a thrilling second semi-final at JB Marks Oval, here on Friday.
With their powerful batting line-up having faltered by posting 99 all out and leaving Australia exactly 100 runs at under a run a ball to win, an intense effort in the field and with the ball helped England defend a modest target.
Player of the match Hannah Baker led the charge, with the leg-spinner's beguiling spell fetching her figures of 3/10 off four overs, with skipper Grace Scrivens supporting her with figures of 2/8 off 3.4 overs and getting the last wicket to fall by trapping Maggie Clark lbw for a duck.
The low run rate in the chase and Amy Smith's run-a-ball 26 (three fours) kept Australia in the game, but once she holed out to long-off off Josie Groves' bowling with the score on 77, England had all but set a date with India in Sunday's final at the same venue.
England chose to bat after winning the toss to hopefully put a big total on the board and let scoreboard pressure do its thing. But the Australian bowling attack had different ideas as Sianna Ginger (3/13), Maggie Clark (3/15) and Ella Hayward (3/25) made relatively light work of one of the more explosive batting line-ups around.
Having scored the most runs in the tournament (269 from five matches) before the semi-final encounter, Grace, the England captain, posted a run-a-ball 20 before being the sixth wicket out.
For the brief period she was in, middle-order batter Seren Smale looked like she was batting on a different surface, but an unlucky lbw decision went against her for a 10-ball 10 (two fours), leaving lower order batters Alexa Stonehouse and Josie Groves to pick up the pieces.
The two compiled a gutsy eighth-wicket partnership of 46 from 46 balls, Alexa top-scoring with 25 off 33 (two fours) and Josie chipping in with 15. That partnership was the main reason England got to 99 all out, which also told them they were in the game as the biggest total scored against them in the tournament was 103 by Pakistan.
Australia losing their first two wickets for just four runs meant a cliffhanger was on the cards, with England the eventual winners in a nail-biting finish that will be remembered for a long time to come.
Brief Scores: England 99 all out in 19.5 overs (Alexa Stonehouse 25, Grace Scrivens 20; Sianna Ginger 3/13, Maggie Clark 3/15) beat Australia 96 all out after 18.4 overs (Amy Smith 26, Claire Moore 20; Hannah Baker 3/10, Grace Scrivens 2/8) by three runs.