England Women today secured a place in the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 with a 71-run win over Sri Lanka at Taunton.
Claire Taylor smashed 75 not out, her highest international Twenty20 innings to put England in the driving seat after the hosts suffered a massive blow losing strike bowler Katherine Brunt in the warm-up through a freak accident which saw a ball hit smash her right cheek.
Recovering from a shaky start, England posted 140 for seven in the Group B match at Taunton as their world-beating number three made 75 not out from 54 balls and hit 11 fours, eight of them coming off her last 14 deliveries faced - while only Sarah Taylor (24) and Caroline Atkins (13 not out) gave her solid support.
The whole team did their bit in the field though, as Sri Lanka proved unable to pose any serious threat with the bat, finishing on 69 for eight.
A second victory in front of around 4,000 fans ensured the world champions will be in the last four as probable group winners and likely to face Australia, on course to be Group A runners-up, at The Oval on Friday.
The hosts suffered a setback as strike bowler Katherine Brunt was sent to hospital before play, although a suspected fractured cheekbone during a fielding drill accident was later confirmed by X-ray as only bad bruising.
Her place in an otherwise unchanged XI from the side that thrashed India by ten wickets on Thursday was taken by Isa Guha, who made the most of her opportunity to open the bowling with two wickets for four runs off four remarkably tight overs, with two maidens.
Nicky Shaw caught skipper Chamari Polgampola Kumarihami (one) in Guha's second over, with Jenny Gunn's full-length stop and throw to keeper Sarah Taylor seeing Chamika Bandara run out for a duck.
Gunn went one better in Guha's next, plucking the ball out of mid-air right-handed at extra cover to send Hiruka Fernando packing without troubling the scorers, and got her own first wicket by trapping top-scoring Sajeewani Galagedara (15) lbw; later taking another decent catch at long-on to see off Deepika Rasangika (14).
From struggling on 39 for four at the midway point, the Sri Lankans suffered a slow lingering demise while the required run rate rose steadily; light rain started to fall and the result was never in doubt.
Having won the toss and elected to bat, new MBE Charlotte Edwards had been dismissed in the second over from Udeshika Prabodini Kaluwadewa, trapped lbw after the two opening balls had been signalled as leg-side wides.
That left the two Taylors at the crease, who steered England to 24 for one after five overs. It wasn't the flood of runs that form coming into the contest had suggested. And Claire had a let-off when Chamika Bandara spilled a comparatively simple catch at mid-off when on seven to deny Kaluwadewa a second wicket.
Sarah was not so lucky in Kaluwadewa's final over, dragging one back on to her stumps with England 41 for two. The left-armer finished with an impressive 2-24 from her four overs.
Beth Morgan joined Claire Taylor and the pair looked to up the run rate with steady if unspectacular scoring, but Morgan played and missed at Eshani Lokusooriya's fourth ball and was bowled for five.
With half their innings over, England were struggling to impose themselves at 55 for three. And things got worse as Lydia Greenway (four) fell to a tremendous shoulder-high catch by Lokusooriya on the deep mid-wicket boundary to leave them 68 for four with just over seven overs remaining to conjure up an imposing total.
Taylor passed her previous best of 42 with a cracking cover drive off Sripali Weerakkody, a cut for four more sealed her first 50 in the format as 18 came off one over.
But her team-mates were unable to stay with her as England suffered a minor middle order collapse. Gunn went in a similar fashion to Morgan, Shaw got an inside edge for four before being stumped by Dilani Manodara second ball, and Lokusooriya grabbed her third wicket in one eventful over as she clean bowled Laura Marsh, with England 120 for seven.
Atkins came in and did just what was required of her, scoring off every ball to make a quick-fire 12 not out, Taylor finishing with powerful pull for four off the final ball to rather ruin Lokusooriya's impressive figures of 4-18.
England play their final group match on Tuesday at Taunton against Pakistan at 4pm; the result of which will determine where they play their semi-final.