Resurgent England have produced a remarkable turnaround to keep their Women’s World Cup title defence alive.
After reaching the knockout stages on the sport’s grandest stage, they are just two wins away from a famous trophy defence.
It just shows what a string of results can do to the confidence and camaraderie of a team once you string a few wins, and more importantly improving performances, together.
Heather Knight’s side have turned the tables and look strides ahead of the humbled team which was ground into the Australian dirt as they were humiliated Down Under just a month ago.
The hangover from that Ashes annihilation saw their title defence in New Zealand start in the worst possible way. England’s hopes of a memorable second successive World Cup triumph was seemingly in tatters just nine days into the tournament after kicking off with three dismal defeats.
What was worse was the manner in which they were losing; dropping catches, missing run outs and looking every bit a side battered and bruised having been crushed by Meg Lanning’s Australia — who went on to top the round-robin group as they boasted a perfect 100 per cent win record.
But Knight’s charges dragged themselves off the canvas and fought their way into the semi-finals with four straight victories to give themselves a shot at history. Only Australia, in 1982 and 1988, have successfully defended a 50-over Women’s World Cup.
And ahead of facing South Africa, who beat them by three wickets in the group stage, skipper Knight said: "The really pleasing thing is we've reacted brilliantly to knockout games. We've been playing knockout cricket since the fourth game, so to be able to deal with that is great for going into the semi-final.
“Having that mentality to have the pressure on you and that if you lose you're out, we've had that for a while now, so I think that will be a really useful thing for us.
“We've been used to dealing with the pressure of the last four games. So having a process as individuals and as a team is quite important, and knowing what the stakes are, it's just useful just to know that we've been successful and it's brought the best out of us. I think that will build a lot of confidence going into Thursday.
“The turnaround has been remarkable. You don't want to go crazy and make a huge deal out of it. You're just desperate to obviously try and turn it around and I think you do that by remembering what what has made us a very good team, what we do really well, and try and execute that.”
It’s not the first time England have locked horns with the Proteas with a spot in the showcase final at stake. In 2017, Knight’s hosts survived an almighty collapse — where they lost three wickets for six — to scrape their way into the final with two balls to spare.
And Knight would love to inflict even more heartache on Hilton Moreeng’s side, who are yet to play a World Cup final after two painful semi-final losses, as England look to secure a fabulous fifth title.
Knight added: ”We're in a very good place. We still probably haven't played our best cricket yet, which is more exciting, I think, and something we feel like we're building towards, hopefully at the perfect time.
"The same things apply, just keeping it really simple, going into that semi-final not changing too many things and just doing what's gone very well for us recently.”