A remarkable innings from Claire Taylor secured England’s place in the final of the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 as they prevailed from an engrossing run chase against Australia at The Oval.
Taylor, the 2009 Wisden Cricketer of the Year, made an almost faultless 76 not out, in a match-winning unbeaten partnership of 122 with Beth Morgan (46no), as England pulled off their pursuit of 164 with three balls to spare - the highest run chase of the tournament.
The result means England progress to Sunday’s final against New Zealand at Lord’s, keeping alive their dream of a World Cup and World Twenty20 double in 2009.
After England skipper Charlotte Edwards won the toss and elected to bowl, her side found themselves on the receiving end of a withering assault by Australia’s opening pair.
Shelley Nitschke and Leah Poulton put on 78 for the first wicket, setting Australia up for a mammoth total.
Nitschke and Poulton bludgeoned 49 runs from the opening six-over powerplay and were particularly harsh on Katherine Brunt, recalled to the world champions' side after suffering a bruised face.
Spin came to England's rescue, with slow left-armer Holly Colvin ending Nitschke’s salvo ended at 37, caught behind by Sarah Taylor off the final ball of the ninth over.
And off-spinner Laura Marsh (4-12) repeated the trick next ball, enticing Poulton down the track and bowling her for 39.
But Lisa Sthalekar (28) and captain Karen Rolton (38) ensured Australia’s momentum was only marginally checked, putting on 60 for the third wicket.
That was only ended with the score at 138, when Nicky Shaw snared Rolton. But by then, an imposing total was assured.
England began their chase of 164, a formidable ask. Australia’s innings represented the second-highest total in the tournament, one run shy of their own winning score against South Africa at Taunton.
Sarah Taylor and Edwards began at a fair crack, but the wicketkeeper lasted only seven balls before chipping Rene Farrell to midwicket.
Edwards used her bottom hand to good effect in moving to 23, but when she fell to an attempted uppercut in the seventh over, England looked as good as out.
But Edwards' wicket brought together Morgan and Claire Taylor, and they took 14 runs off one over of hapless Sthalekar’s off-spin. England were helped in no small part by some sloppy Australian ground fielding.
Taylor was fortunate to escape a top-edge that went for four - but played some beautiful lofted cover drives and scored off almost every ball.
One shot - a loft over midwicket for four - had more than a little Paul Collingwood about it.
Morgan was less assured - but opened her arms with two clever paddle-sweeps for four. At the other end, Taylor moved to a seamless half-century, from 41 balls.
And when England’s premier batsman lofted Farrell to the cover boundary, England were down to a run a ball and almost home.
And Taylor sealed the win with three balls to spare with a crunching square drive for four.