Galle, Sept 30 (IBNS) West Indies and two-times finalist New Zealand qualified for the semi-finals of the ICC Women's World Twenty20 Sri Lanka 2012, after each recorded victories on the final day of Group B matches in Galle on Sunday.
A strong all-round performance by Stafanie Taylor cemented a West Indies victory over South Africa by 10 wickets, while New Zealand defeated host Sri Lanka by eight wickets, with 26 balls remaining.
After the final Group B matches, West Indies has finished on top of the table with New Zealand second.
Their opponents in the 4 and 5 October semi-finals in Colombo will be confirmed after tomorrow's match between defending champion Australia and former winner England.
In contrast, South Africa and Sri Lanka will play in the play-offs in Colombo on Wednesday 3 October and their opponents will also be known after India-Pakistan match.
While the four semi-finalists have confirmed their places in the ICC Women's World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014, the winners of the two play-offs will also go through to the next edition of the ICC World Twenty20.
Bangladesh, being the host nation, will be the seventh side in the tournament and the final berth will go to the winner of the eight-team ICC Women's World Twenty20 Qualifier to be staged next year.
In the first match of the day, South Africa struggled to find its rhythm after being sent in to bat first.
West Indies' strategy of stifling South Africa with spin proved to be the right one on the day. Taylor´s triple strike in her first two overs left South Africa reeling at 11 for five in the eighth over.
Coming in at number seven, Dane van Niekerk steadied the ship and notched up 29, while Shabnim Ismail put together a careful 16, to help the team to reach a total of 70 from its 20 overs.
Stafanie Taylor was the pick of the bowlers with figures of three for 10 in four overs, while Shaquana Quintyne took two wickets.
In reply, Taylor was at the forefront of the run chase with a fierce 33 not out.
Giving her company was Juliana Nero who was unbeaten on 30, and the two chased down a modest 71 in 9.4 overs to win by ten wickets.
"Last night, we analysed each of their players," said West Indies captain Merissa Aguilleira afterwards, adding: "We had specific plans in place. We played a couple of warm-ups, so we had an idea of what to expect against them."
Aguilleira said her team had focused on keeping things simple and playing with an uncluttered mind.
"We knew we had quality and ability. The match against Sri Lanka wasn´t up to our standards, so we just spoke about improving and playing without any worry, because qualification to the semi-finals was well within our reach."
Taylor, who was named player of the match, also reached the landmark of 1,000 runs in Women´s Twenty20 Internationals during her knock.
She was at ease in the role expected of her.
"I´ve always put the team´s interest ahead of mine," she said.
"I enjoy my role as an all-rounder, so it is quite easy for me to divide my time between bat and ball at the nets.
"The pitch was really good, but I think the defensive mindset of the South African batters played into my hands."
South Africa captain Mignon du Preez admitted that nerves had affected her team's performance: "I would be lying if I say we weren´t nervous. A place in the semi-finals was at stake, we were all looking forward to it. We had a good enough side, but we panicked when we lost three early wickets and there was no way out."
"Quite obviously, our batting let us down at crucial junctures. We´ve lost wickets in clusters right through the tournament, and once that happens it is very difficult to make a comeback."
Despite the loss, du Preez felt this experience would only benefit the side in the years ahead.
"Definitely this experience will stand us in good stead ahead of the Women´s World Cup next year," she said.
"We also have the experience of playing on slow and low wickets in Bangladesh, so hopefully we will come back better prepared, and as a better side for the 50-over World Cup in India."
In the final group B match, a confident New Zealand put up a dominant performance to defeat Sri Lanka by eight wickets to seal its progression to the semi-finals.
Sri Lanka looked on target to post a formidable total in the first few overs when they reached 37 for one in the sixth over before they lost its last nine wickets for 52 runs in nearly 11 overs to be bowled out for 89 in 17.4 overs.
The bowling honours were shared equally by Sian Ruck, Erin Bermingham and Morna Nielsen, who picked up two wickets apiece.
In response, New Zealand chased down the target in 15.4 overs.
Despite losing Suzie Bates for 16, the in-form Sophie Devine and Amy Satterthwaite made full use of the field restrictions to plunder 42 off the first six overs.
Devine was run out for 23, but Satterthwaite finished not out on 32, with three boundaries. Frances Mackay was unbeaten on 13 when victory was sealed.
New Zealand's margins of victory against South Africa and Sri Lanka suggests that the team is peaking at the right time, but Bates felt the semi-final would be a different ball game.
"In the previous two editions, we breezed into the tournament without any difficulty, but here we were given a tough start," she said. "We had to really improve, to say we weren´t challenged would be wrong."
Bates was pleased with her side's improved bowling, saying: "We wanted to address the issue of inconsistency with the ball. After an off day with the ball against West Indies, as a side we´ve picked ourselves up which is a very good sign."
Reflecting on her side's loss, Sri Lanka captain Shashikala Siriwardena felt that the pressure got to the team. "Once again, the batting collapse cost us big," she said.
"We looked to get close to 120 and then with five spinners, we knew if we picked up early wickets, there was a chance. But New Zealand was too good for us today."
Despite the loss, Siriwardena was proud of the character her side showed in its win over West Indies.
"That was a tremendous performance," she said.
"We will keep working hard. Looking back at our campaign, I think we were just repeating the same mistakes over and over again. We haven´t really learnt from our mistakes, which we need to do going forward."
The loss notwithstanding, Siriwardena felt that the team was still a motivated bunch. "We´ve never been Asian champions, so our next real target is the Asia Cup and of course the 50-over ICC World Cup," she said. "We want to keep improving, and I´m sure we´ll see the right results soon."
Scores in Brief
At GICS, West Indies beat South Africa by 10 wickets (with 62 balls remaining)
South Africa 70 for eight, 20 overs (Dane van Niekerk 29, Shabnim Ismail 16; Stafanie Taylor 3-10, Shaquana Quintyne 2-14)
West Indies 71 for no loss, 9.4 overs (Stafanie Taylor 33, Juliana Nero 30)
Player of the Match - Stafanie Taylor (West Indies)
At GICS, New Zealand defeated Sri Lanka by eight wickets (with 26 balls remaining)
Sri Lanka 89 all out, 17.4 overs (Shashikala Siriwardena 14, Inoka Galagedara 14; Morna Nielsen 2-10)
New Zealand 90 for two, 15.4 overs (Amy Satterthwaite 32 not out, Sophie Devine 23; Chamani Senevirathne 1-27)
Player of the Match - Sara McGlashan (New Zealand)
India v Pakistan (Group A), 0930-1230
Australia v England (Group A), 1330-1630