By Rob Barnett
Charlotte Edwards is not surprised to see South Africa in the Women’s World Twenty20 semi-finals.
England’s opponents tomorrow at Dhaka shocked New Zealand in their last group game to reach the last four.
Equally unexpectedly, West Indies then lost to India, meaning England will face South Africa in the second semi for the right to take on holders Australia in Sunday's showpiece.
Aside from a game at last year’s 50-over World Cup, which England won by seven wickets, Edwards’ side have not met the Proteas since late 2011.
Back then, England won every completed match in a one-day and Twenty20 series. However, Edwards expected Mignon du Preez’s team to improve significantly, and they have.
“When we played them I said they will be a force to be reckoned with in the next two years,” Edwards explained before referencing their defeat of the White Ferns.
“To see them play so well the other night backed up what I was thinking then.”
South Africa’s success at the World T20 is thanks in part to the emergence of several players, including leg-spinners Sune Luus and Dane van Niekerk.
Between them, Luus and van Nieker have taken eight wickets in the tournament while there have been seven each for seamers Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail.
“I think anyone can present a challenge in this form of the game,” Edwards said.
“They’ve certainly got some good, young players and they’ve got a variety of bowlers, which we haven’t seen.
“They’ve got a couple of leg-spinners who are quality bowlers and they have a varied attack which could pose a threat.”
Van Niekerk is South Africa’s leading scorer in the competition with 150 runs at an average of 50. That includes two sixes while team-mates Chloe Tryon and Lizelle Lee have hit three maximums each.
In contrast, England are yet to clear the ropes at this World T20, although Edwards has 21 fours among her 151 runs and Sarah Taylor 10 boundaries.
“We’ve never been a big-hitting side in terms of sixes. We hit a lot of boundaries in terms of four, but not sixes, so it’s not something we focus on too much,” added Edwards, whose bowling will be led by the tournament’s leading wicket-taker Anya Shrubsole with 10 scalps to her name at an amazing average of 5.7.
“They certainly have got some big hitters up the front. We’ve got a good bowling attack; hopefully we can restrict them.
“The bowlers have been exceptional. We’ve only been chasing lower totals.”
Taylor’s return to form with 36 versus Sri Lanka on Monday was timely and particularly pleasing to her opening partner.
“There have been some good signs in the last couple of games,” said Edwards.
“Sarah Taylor has come into some form and we’ve got some world-class players in the middle order who, I’m sure, in the big games will perform.”
Tomorrow’s “big” game will be played in front of a large crowd and a huge global television audience given it is the first part of a double-header later featuring the second men’s semi - between India and South Africa.
“You want to play in big finals; you want to play in global events,” enthused Edwards, who led England to victory in the 2009 World T20 final and defeat in the 2012 showpiece.
“The double-headers are something we look forward to. To play before India and South Africa is going to be fantastic. Being one more game away from a big final is something that excites us.”
You can follow England Women’s progress in Dhaka tomorrow with ecb.co.uk’s live blog, as well as via Twitter @ECB_cricket.