After holding nerve in four must-win games, England primed for tough bout with South Africa says captain
“We’re in a very good place,” Knight said. “We still probably haven’t played our best cricket yet, which is more exciting, I think, and something we feel like we’re building towards, hopefully at the perfect time.
“The really pleasing thing is we’ve reacted brilliantly to knockout games. We’ve been playing knockout cricket since the fourth game, so to be able to deal with that is great for going into the semi-final. Having that mentality to have the pressure on you and that if you lose you’re out, we’ve had that for a while now, so I think that will be a really useful thing for us.
“The same things apply, just keeping it really simple, going into that semi-final not changing too many things and just doing what’s gone very well for us recently.”
“We’ve been used to dealing with the pressure of the last four games,” Knight said. “So having a process as individuals and as a team is quite important, and knowing what the stakes are, it’s just useful just to know that we’ve been successful and it’s brought the best out of us. I think that will build a lot of confidence going into Thursday.
“We’ll have to bring our best cricket and we’d love to obviously have the same result as 2017. It would be a little bit nicer if it wasn’t as close because that’s probably one of the most nerve-wracking finishes to a cricket game I think I’ve ever had, to make a home World Cup final.”
Knight credits her team’s “remarkable” turnaround, which also followed a disappointing Ashes campaign in Australia immediately before the World Cup, to remaining calm and working to fix the areas that were letting them down, namely poor fielding and the conceding of too many extras.
“It was just being honest with what had gone wrong and realising that a lot of it was in our control and mainly just trying to stay positive around the group,” she said. “You don’t want to go crazy and make a huge deal out of it. You’re just desperate to obviously try and turn it around and I think you do that by remembering what what has made us a very good team, what we do really well, and try and execute that.”
“I think Lizelle Lee’s had quite a quiet tournament, and not forgetting how explosive she can be, and making sure we’re having plans in place for all their batters is pretty important,” Knight said. “But it’s no secret Laura’s going to be a key wicket for us, trying to get her early. We obviously had a few opportunities to do that in our first game but couldn’t take them so we have to be really on it from ball one and start quite quickly.”
South Africa are no strangers to close encounters at this World Cup, their victories over Pakistan, England, New Zealand and India all coming down to the final over – the last ball in the case of India. Having lost just one match, to Australia before a washed-out game with West Indies, South Africa are unbeaten batting second in 16 matches, which could influence Knight’s decision should she win the toss.
The winner of the England-South Africa game will face in the final either Australia or West Indies, who play the previous day.
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo