• Beaumont hits 148 and Taylor hits 147
England batter Sarah Taylor celebrates her century with fellow century maker Tammy Beaumont. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images
For it was those two who smashed South Africa all over the County Ground, with a century apiece, as England defeated South Africa by 68 runs for their third win of the Women’s World Cup.
Collectively they were record-breaking: their 275 for the second wicket is England’s highest ODI stand and the second highest of all time. Individually they were breathtaking, taking full advantage of winning the toss and batting on a fresh, true pitch and, for the first time in this competition, with pace on the ball.
Taylor, player of the match, unfurled the best of her six ODI hundreds. She was unplayable: a career best of 147 set with the ease and splendour of a Sunday stroll. The half-century came off 49 balls before the reverse sweeps and pick-ups to midwicket came out, ensuring she only had to wait 31 more deliveries for three figures . At that point, she flicked a switch: five fours in a row came off the next over (the 40th) from Shabnim Ismail, the quickest bowler around. Coupled with her unbeaten 74 last time out against Sri Lanka, it is safe to say she is back in business.
Beaumont’s century is another problem solved. Scores of 14, 14 and 12 to start the tournament were scratchy, out on all three occasions trying to force the issue. Crucially here she did not snatch at deliveries and with good carry from the surface, she could play her natural game (as encouraged to do so by her head coach Mark Robinson on the eve of this match).
That is not to say she was sedate. In the same overs that Taylor would hit straight, Beaumont lapped and dabbed behind square: seven of her 22 fours coming behind the keeper as South Africa failed to keep tabs on what these two would do next. A scoop away through fine leg took her to three figures from 118 balls before, like Taylor, she used the milestone to cut loose. Her final 47 runs came in 28 balls, which included England’s only six.
It is worth taking a moment to consider Beaumont’s last 12 months. The first of her now three ODI centuries was scored in June of last year and this knock, in her 32nd innings, took her past 1,000 runs in the format, making her the fourth fastest Englishwoman to four figures. Considering she only had 207 from her first 16 innings, her turnaround has been remarkable.
A 10-ball 22 from the captain, Heather Knight, including 10 from the final over, pushed England to 373.
South Africa’s approach throughout was commendable. An impressive opening stand between Lizelle Lee and the 18-year-old Laura Wolvaardt put on 128, but it could have been curtailed earlier had England taken one of four chances to catch Lee, dropped on 15, 37, 40 and 61 before she was bowled by Nat Sciver for 72.
Once Wolvaardt was out in the 33rd over, with 207 more needed from 105 balls, it seemed England could rest easy. The No6 Chloe Tryon looked to change that with a flashy half-century off 25 balls thanks to four huge sixes – two of them in a row off Dani Hazell before she was caught at midwicket by Knight. With that South Africa’s challenge effectively ended, and they finished on 305 for nine.
That meant it became the first women’s ODI in which both teams made it past 300. The 678 aggregate is a record for runs scored in a women’s ODI, moreover, beating the previous best by 101.
The result moves England above South Africa, into third. Their opponents on Sunday, Australia, lead the group after a 159-run win against Pakistan in Leicester. Despite missing their captain, Meg Lanning, they recovered from seven for two to post 290, with half-centuries from Ellyse Perry, Elyse Villani and Alyssa Healy. India, in second place, also made it four wins from four, albeit in tighter circumstances, as Sri Lanka fell 16 short of their target of 233 at Derby.