England crash back down to earth
England's 17-game winning run was ended in emphatic fashion as they were trounced by eight wickets by Australia in their final Super Six match.
The North Sydney Oval was awash with pink shirts to mark Jane McGrath Day, but the team in blue shirts left with red faces after being hammered in front of the 2,214 spectators, the biggest crowd of the tournament to date.
Chasing just 161 to win, Australia dominated the England bowlers from the start and raced to their victory target inside 34 overs.
Fortunately for Charlotte Edwards' side, the defeat had little bearing on the competition as five straight wins had already earned them a place in Sunday's final. There they will meet New Zealand, who confirmed qualification by thumping Pakistan by 223 runs today.
Gone, however, is England's chance of setting a new record for the most wins in succession.
On a sunny day at the North Sydney Oval, Edwards would have been pleased with the early signs after winning the toss and electing to bat.
Sarah Taylor, fresh from 78 against West Indies two days earlier, looked set for something special when she punched Emma Sampson's first ball straight down the ground for four.
Around 1,300 school kids crammed into the picturesque ground to see the two old foes do battle, and the youngsters made themselves heard when England lost their first wicket, Caroline Atkins adjudged leg before playing across the line to Sarah Andrews.
England suffered a further setback when Taylor flashed at a wide delivery off the same bowler and was brilliantly caught at second slip by the diving Jessica Cameron.
Edwards announced herself in grand style with a sublime drive down the ground but when she was spectacularly caught and bowled in the 13th over by Rene Farrell, England were in dire trouble on 46 for three.
English hopes, as often they do, rested on the muscular shoulders of Claire Taylor, who was the only England player who looked capable of a substantial score.
The world's number one batsman, joining forces with Lydia Greenway, mounted something of a recovery, squeezing Erin Osbourne through point for a much-needed boundary in the 20th over and then hitting two more off Lisa Sthalekar.
But their burgeoning partnership, now worth 59, came to an end when Greenway, who displayed some stickability in making 22, charged down the wicket to Sthalekar and was stumped by Jodie Fields.
The key wicket fell in the 32nd over. Taylor, in little trouble during her innings of 49, leaned back on an attempted square-cut off the miserly Shelley Nitschke and carved the ball straight to Cameron.
When Beth Morgan and Holly Colvin fell in quick succession, England had lost four wickets for just nine runs to slip to 115 for seven.
The pugnacious Nicky Shaw and Jenny Gunn dragged England closer to respectability by putting on 36 for the eighth wicket before the former chipped Osbourne to Cameron at mid-on.
Gunn took England past 150 but Andrews, who started England's demise, ended the innings in dramatic style, picking up off her bowling and running out Laura Marsh with a direct hit.
Andrews dismissed Gunn in the last over, majestically caught by Leah Poulton at point to finish with 3-35.
Sponsors LG generously donated money to the McGrath Foundation for every boundary struck and aggresive Australia openers Nitschke and Poulton ensured it would be a sizeable cheque by peppering the rope at will.
Poulton started the fireworks by launching Marsh out of the ground as England's decision to hand the off-spinner the new ball backfired somewhat.
Nitschke matched that blow by cracking Colvin over midwicket for another six in the 15th over as the opening stand reached 79.
But the teenage spinner got her revenge when Nitschke was caught on the boundary by Greenway attempting a repeat of the shot.
Marsh made it a double blow four balls later, luring Poulton down the track and Taylor completing the stumping.
That was as good as it got for England as veteran captain Karen Rolton and Alex Blackwell carried Australia towards the winning line in a blaze of boundaries.