An unbroken 125-run second-wicket partnership between opener Caroline Atkins and Claire Taylor guided two-time former champion England to an easy nine-wicket victory over India to secure a place in the Super Six stage of the ICC Women's World Cup 2009 at the North Sydney Oval on Tuesday.
Both Atkins and Taylor, the top-ranked batter in the Reliance Mobile ICC Women's ODI Player Rankings, finished unbeaten on 69 each as England raced to the victory target of 170 with 11.3 overs to spare.
It was England's second successive victory and puts it on top of Group B while India is second with one win and one defeat. After Wednesday's rest day, the first round matches will conclude on Thursday with England taking on third-placed Pakistan at the North Sydney Oval while India will go head-to-head with bottom-placed Sri Lanka at Bankstown.
Put into bat, India slipped from 92-3 to 126-9 in a space of just 14 overs before a late onslaught by Amita Sharma lifted the 2005 World Cup runner-up to 169 all out in 48.4 overs. Sharma clobbered five fours and a six in a 24-ball 33 before being the last batter out.
While wickets fell like nine-pins from one end, former captain Mithali Raj stood tall before becoming the eighth batter to depart at the score of 123. Raj scored a well-played 59 that came off 90 balls and included nine fours.
Left-arm spinner Holly Colvin was the star of England's bowling attack when she showed a lot of craft and variation while picking up 3-22. Fast bowler Jenny Gunn also displayed her promise and talent by bagging 3-50 while new-ball bowler Isa Guha finished with 2-16 after claiming the wickets of both the openers.
In its target chase, England was never really under threat despite losing Sarah Taylor (27) as Atkins and Claire Taylor put India's bowling to the sword with some sizzling drives and sweeps.
Atkins' knock came off 124 balls and included nine fours while Claire Taylor belted nine fours and a six in a rapid 69 not out off 65 balls. Taylor has now scored 170 runs in two innings, including 101 against Sri Lanka at the Manuka Oval in Canberra.
Atkins, named player-of-the-match, said: "I wouldn't call my innings a fluent one but our bowlers took all the pressure off us so I was able to scratch around and bat around the two good batters.
"It was great to bat with Claire as she keeps the run-rate up and I can just bat around her."
In Group A, defending champion Australia got its campaign back on track after a surprise defeat to New Zealand on Sunday with a comfortable 61-run victory over South Africa while New Zealand put in another tidy bowling performance to defeat the West Indies by 56 runs to join England in the Super Six.
On Thursday, South Africa will have to beat 2000 World Cup champions New Zealand to keep its hope of reaching the Super Six stage alive while the West Indies can go through to the Super Six stage irrespective of the outcome of its match against Australia if New Zealand wins at Bowral.
In that scenario, New Zealand will finish on top of Group A and will take forward four carry-over points to the Super Six stage while Australia will take two and the West Indies none.
In the Super Six stage, the top three sides in each group will play the teams which have qualified from the other group. The top two sides from the Super Six will go forward to the 22 March final.
Australia captain Karen Rolton edged closer to becoming the most successful batter in women's cricket when she scored an electrifying unbeaten 96 that set up a 61-run victory over South Africa at the No. 1 Sports Ground, Newcastle.
Rolton, who started the tournament needing 350 runs to leapfrog her former captain Belinda Clark (4,844 runs), clubbed 13 fours in an 87-ball knock but missed out on her ninth career century after running out of overs. Rolton now sits on 4,612 runs and needs another 233 runs to become the leading run-scorer in women's ODI cricket.
Rolton featured in a 82-run second-wicket partnership off 75 balls with Shelley Nitschke who was also in a punishing mood, belting 11 fours and a six in her 87 that came off 94 balls. Earlier, Nitschke had provided Australia with a flying start when, together with Alex Blackwell, she put on 75 runs for the first wicket with Blackwell scoring 22.
For South Africa, vice-captain Alicia Smith was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3-42.
In turn, South Africa was bowled out for 197 in 49.3 overs with Trisha Chetty scoring a fighting 58 that came off 78 balls and included six fours.
Nitschke completed a good day in the field by following up her 87 with 3-43 to claim the player-of-the-match award.
Reflecting on today's victory, Rolton said: "It was a good fight for the girls and I thought South Africa batted well. We got off to a bit of a slow start and I would have liked a few more runs early on but to the South Africa girls' credit, they bowled well.
At Bankstown Oval, Sydney, New Zealand laboured to a 56 runs victory over the West Indies after managing just 192-8 in 50 overs, thanks to a quick-fire 41 not out off 35 balls by Sarah Tsukigawa and vice-captain Aimee Mason, who contributed 37 off 63 balls.
The two batters added 57 runs in little over 10 overs for the seventh wicket after New Zealand was struggling at 104-6.
West Indies, which defeated South Africa by just two wickets on Sunday, was never in the hunt after losing Deandra Dottin on the fourth ball of the innings before finishing at 136-8 in 50 overs.
Player-of-the-match Tsukigawa said she had waited for the batting PowerPlay to accelerate the run-rate. "I came out with a plan of setting myself till the 45th over and we knew we had the PowerPlay to take in the last five overs. So it was important to get there and give ourselves a chance to launch from there with a couple of batters still left."
Scores in brief:
At North Sydney Oval: India 169 all out, 48.4 overs (Mithali Raj 59, Amita Sharma 33, Anagha Deshpande 32; Holly Colvin 3-22, Jenny Gunn 3-50, Isa Guha 2-16)
England 172-1, 38.3 overs (Caroline Atkins 69 not out, Claire Taylor 69 not out)
England won by nine wickets
At No. 1 Sports Ground, Newcastle: Australia 258-4, 50 overs (Karen Rolton 96 not out, Shelley Nitschke 87, Alex Blackwell 22; Alicia Smith 3-42)
South Africa 197 all out, 49.3 overs (Trisha Chetty 58, Mignon du Preez 37, Cri-Zelda Brits 36; Shelly Nitschke 3-43, Rene Farrell 2-30)
Australia won by 61 runs
At Bankstown Oval: New Zealand 192-8, 50 overs (Sarah Tsukigawa 41 not out, Aimee Mason 38, Amy Satterthwaite 37; Stafanie Taylor 2-33, Kirbyina Alexander 2-37)
West Indies 136-8, 50 overs (Pamela Lavine 40, Stafanie Taylor 38; Lucy Doolan 3-21, Aimee Mason 3-26)
New Zealand won by 56 runs