Colombo, Oct 3 (IBNS) South Africa secured an automatic qualification place in the ICC World Twenty20 2014 after a dramatic five wicket win over Pakistan in a low scoring contest in Colombo on Wednesday, while India beat host Sri Lanka by nine wickets to seal the last automatic qualification spot in the 2014 event.
Despite chasing a meagre 88 to win, South Africa managed to secure victory with just one ball of the game remaining.
After winning the toss and deciding to bat, Pakistan struggled to find any form on a slow wicket, with only Bismah Maroof making double figures in an invaluable innings of 32 at the Moors Cricket Ground in Colombo.
Only six boundaries were scored in Pakistan's total of 87 for eight, with Shabnim Ismail the pick of the bowling attack with three for 19, although spinner Sunette Loubser was also very economical in her four overs, which saw her take one for 16.
South Africa began slowly in reply, losing Marizanne Kapp in just the third over, but then Trisha Chetty and Alison Hodgkinson began a watchful partnership against Pakistan's predominantly spin attack.
However, the pressure began to tell on the batters when they both were stumped in the space of 10 balls, with Chetty falling for 22 and former skipper Hodgkinson being dismissed for 25.
Skipper Mignon du Preez was next to fall, again stumped, leaving 26 needed off the final four overs.
Big hitting Susan Benade then fell for 16, becoming one of two victims for Sadia Yousuf who took two for 10 in her four overs.
With just six needed for victory from the final over, Dane Van Niekerk and Shabnim Ismail guided their side to victory with just one delivery to spare.
Captain du Preez was proud of her team's effort to win qualification to the ICC World Twenty20 in 2014: "We are very glad that we have qualified. It was definitely our goal for today.
"If we couldn't get in the semi-finals we wanted to ensure that we got qualification for 2014. I am very happy and I am very proud of the way the girls batted in the last over."
However, du Preez acknowledged that the team has some work to do: "We are going to go back home and work on our game. I think that on the mental toughness side of things we need to improve, as on the big stage we seem to freeze a bit.
"Our skills are definitely up there with the best teams and we just need to make sure that when we are in tough situations we don't panic under pressure."
Pakistan captain Sana Mir was frustrated with her side's batting: "I am pretty disappointed with the performance as the batting once again let us down.
"It is the responsibility of the batters to improve, as bowlers cannot again and again defend totals that are lower than 100 runs. We have to get together and see our weaknesses and need to ensure we score at least 120 runs if we are going to win matches on a regular basis."
In the second play-off match on Wednesday, India also qualified for the ICC Women´s World Twenty20 2014 after beating host Sri Lanka by nine wickets.
After opting to bat first, Sri Lanka posted 100 for eight in its 20 overs. Sri Lanka was well served by a 42-run third wicket stand between Chamari Atapattu (28) and skipper Shashikala Siriwardena (23).
But thereafter the innings lost momentum, and Sri Lanka lost four wickets off four balls in the final over of the innings. Ekta Bisht picked up the wickets of Dilani Manodara, Yasoda Mendis and Eshani Kaushalya to get a hat-trick, while also effecting two run outs.
Bisht, with figures of three for 16 was the best bowler on view for India.
In its reply, India chased down the target with 32 balls and nine wickets to spare.
Openers Sulakshna Naik and Poonam Raut added 38 runs in four overs. Thereafter Raut, who was unbeaten on 45 off 40 balls with five boundaries added an unbroken 64 runs for the second wicket with skipper Mithali Raj to lead the side to a win.
The India captain was pleased to have won the match, in spite of the team's performance in the group stage: "It's a relief because in the league stage, we lost all our games, so it was definitely disappointing. It really needed a match like this to get the team back into confidence."
Raj admitted that the team has some improvements to make: "I think our middle order it is definitely a concern. Even the bowling attack, considering the wickets were helping the spinners was disappointing.
"The Indian team has always produced quality spinners, so it was all the more disappointing to see that the spinners could not penetrate much."
Sri Lanka captain Shashikala Siriwardena said her side had tried to focus on the cricket, and not on the qualification opportunity: "We wanted to play this as a normal game, we didn't want to think about whether we are qualifying or not for the next World Twenty20.
"We just wanted to play good cricket, just like it was another match. Today also we had a good start, but in the end, we couldn't make the 20 extra runs as 100 is not enough in a pitch like this. Our bowlers also didn't do as well as I expected, so it's a bad day again."
Scores in Brief:
At Moor's Sports Club Ground in Colombo, South Africa beat Pakistan by 5 wickets with 1 ball to spare
Pakistan 87 for eight, 20 overs (Bismah Maroof 32; Shabnim Ismail 3-19)
South Africa 88 for five, 19.5 overs (Alison Hodgkinson 25, Trisha Chetty 22; Sadia Yousuf 2-10)
Player of the Match - Shabnim Ismail (South Africa)
At NCC in Colombo, India defeated Sri Lanka by nine wickets with 32 balls to spare
Sri Lanka 100 for eight, 20 overs (Chamari Atapattu 28, Shashikala Siriwardena 23; Ekta Bisht 3-16, Roshanara Parwain 2-23)
India 102 for one, 14.4 overs (Poonam Raut 45 not out, Mithali Raj 28 not out; Inoka Ranaweera 1-21)
Player of the Match - Ekta Bisht (India)
First semi-final: 4 October: England Women v New Zealand Women, R.Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
Second semi-final, 5 October: West Indies Women v Australia Women, R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo