Pacers Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka shared seven wickets between them as South Africa staged a spectacular fight-back to stun England by six runs and enter their maiden Women's T20 World Cup final here on Friday.
Openers Laura Wolvaardt (53) and Tazmin Britz (68) struck entertaining half-centuries to take South Africa to 164 for four in the second semifinal at Newlands.
The game went down to the wire, thanks to the efforts of Ismail (3/27) and Khaka (4/29), who both came up with momentum-changing overs. The 2009 champions England ended with 158 for eight in 20 overs.
"It was a great match. We were in and out of the game and it went in waves. We do have the best bowling in the world but it was against the best batting attack in the world," South Africa skipper Sune Luus said after the match.
"It (the final) is massive. Every game we play, we keep making history and keep inspiring a nation. I hope with one game to go we keep doing that." Danielle Wyatt (34) and Sophia Dunkley (28) made a flying start to take England to 53 for no loss in five overs.
Star pacer Ismail brought back South Africa in the game with a double strike in the sixth over. Both Dunkley and incoming batter Alice Capsey (0) were caught at midwicket by Britz. The one-handed catch to dismiss Capsey off a short ball stood out among the four catches she took in the game.
With 81 needed off last 60 balls and eight wickets in hand, England was expected to complete the task before South Africa made a roaring comeback, egged on by a loud home crowd.
Medium pacer Khaka turned the game on its head by striking thrice in the 18th over, sending back Amy Jones, Sophie Ecclestone and Katherine Sciver-Brunt.
With 13 needed off the last over and England still had hope with skipper Heather Knight in the middle. Ismail got rid of her to seal a special result for South Africa.
"Gutted. A brilliant game of cricket. We did well to take it close. They bowled straight lines and made it tough for us. This group doesn't define us as a group.”
"There is a huge amount of talent. We are starting to build something nicely. Sometimes fine margins happen and we lose the game. We are clear on how we want to go with T20 cricket," England captain Heather Knight said.
Earlier, the hosts' star batter Wolvaardt and Britz shared a 96-run stand to lay the groundwork for a competitive total. England's lead spinner Sophie Ecclestone was the pick of the bowlers taking three wickets for 22 runs in four overs.
It was a second successive fifty from the 23-year-old Wolvaardt whose innings comprised five fours and a glorious off-drive than went all the way for a six. Ecclestone was the one to provide the breakthrough for England as Wolvaardt, trying to play on the side, got a leading edge and was caught by Charlotte Dean.
Britz changed gears following her opening partner's dismissal. Her back-to-straight sixes off leggie Sarah Glenn was the highlight of her innings.
Ecclestone pulled things back in the death overs with wickets of Chloe Tyron and Nadine de Klerk in a three-run over before Marizanne Kapp got a much needed 23 not out off 13 balls to take the total beyond 160.
Katherine Sciver-Brunt's last over went for 18 runs and included a boundary off a waist-high full toss. Kapp ended the innings on a high with back-to-back fours. South Africa was able to collect 66 runs off the last six overs.