Wolvaardt's unbeaten 48 helped South Africa race to an easy win. © Getty Images

Wolvaardt’s unbeaten 48 helped South Africa race to an easy win. © Getty Images

Dane van Niekerk’s golden run continued as she took 4 for 24 – her third four-wicket haul in the 2017 Women’s World Cup – in a massive eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka in Taunton on Wednesday (July 12). With nine points in six games, South Africa have put themselves in a strong position to seal a semifinal spot.

Opting to bat, Sri Lanka were dismissed for 101 in 40.3 overs before South Africa rode on Laura Wolvaardt’s unbeaten 48 to reach 104 for 2 in 23.1 overs. Aside from van Niekerk, Shabnim Ismail played her part as well, taking 3 for 14 to dent Sri Lanka early on.

Returning to her favourite opening slot, Chamari Athapaththu failed to make an impact, trapped in front of the wicket by Marizanne Kapp in the second over of the innings. Ismail joined the party when she accounted for Hasini Perera as Sri Lanka became 5 for 2 in 4.3 overs.

Chamari Polgampola, returning for this game, and Prasadani Weerakkody added 43 for the third wicket before van Niekerk, who brought herself on as the sixth bowler in the 18th over, struck with her eighth ball. She had Prasadani caught beautifully on the legside boundary for 18. Three balls later Polgampola was caught behind for 25.

At 49 for 4, the onus was on Shashikala Siriwardene, playing her 99th ODI, and Dilani Manodara to rebuild. They could add only 23 runs before Siriwardene fell to Sune Luus for 9.

Sri Lanka lost their last six wickets for 29 runs, with van Niekerk removing Harshitha Madhavi and Sripali Weerakkody. With that, she went to the top of the tournament bowling charts with 13 wickets. A total of seven Sri Lankan batters were dismissed for single-digit scores.

Lizelle Lee fell early in the first over of South Africa’s innings, and Inoka Ranaweera bowled Trisha Chetty to reduce them to 26 for 2 in 5.3 overs. But Sri Lanka never had enough runs on the board to sustain the momentum, and Wolvaardt and Mignon du Preez settled down to build a strong partnership of 78 runs.

They hit a total of nine fours between them before the winning run was scored with 161 balls to spare.

Dane van Niekerk’s golden run continued as she took 4 for 24 – her third four-wicket haul in the 2017 Women’s World Cup. © Getty Images

This was South Africa’s third victory by a sizeable margin, after routing Windies by ten wickets and prevailing over India by 115 runs. Their other win was a thrilling three-wicket heist over Pakistan on the second day of the tournament. These factors, along with scoring 305 for 9 in a chase of 374 against England, have boosted their net run-rate to +1.722.

They now take on Australia on the final day of the league stage on June 15, while Sri Lanka, winless so far, will play against Pakistan for the wooden spoon.

“My bowling and batting are both working. So, I am not going to complain. Our team has been performing really well. Every game has been a team effort. My opening bowlers are setting up our games. That I am here is because of them, and the individual performances the others have been putting up,” van Niekerk said after receiving her second consecutive player of the match award.

“Coming into the World Cup, I wasn’t too sure about my batting, but I am glad to be able to contribute to the wins. It’s such an open tournament that you don’t know what’s happening. Some teams are still playing so we are not sure how things stand. At the end of the day we have another win, two more points. That’s crucial. Coming into the World Cup, we were really confident of the performances we’ve been putting in, the hard work and the effort. In retrospect, this is what we wanted to do and where we wanted to be. Our next focus is Australia. If we get those two points, we know we’re 100 percent in.”