A clinical bowling performance followed by some stellar batting from Mignon du Preez and Anneke Bosch helped South Africa complete a five-wicket win in the final ODI against India at the Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on Wednesday(March 17). The tourists won the five-match ODI series 4-1.
After having a quiet series so far, Rajeshwari Gayakwad opened the bowling for India and provided them with the start they needed while defending a sub-par total. The left-arm spinner got rid of Laura Wolvaardt in the second over and followed it up with the wicket of Lara Goodall in her next. Meanwhile, veteran seamer Jhulan Goswami kept the South African batters quiet at the other end.
Playing for India after two years, Dayalan Hemalatha struck in her second delivery as the offspinner castled the stumps of Sune Luus through the gap between bat and pad. The tourists were struggling at 27 for three.
However, du Preez and Bosch ensured that the Indian spinners did not cause any further damage. Bosch, in particular, did not let the spinners settle into a rhythm. Every time someone seemed like getting their line and length right, she was quick to jump out of the crease and hit them down the ground, unsettling their lengths. The moment they bowled short, Bosch was happy to go on the back-foot and rotate the strike.
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Du Preez, on the other hand, had a different approach to tackle the spinners. She often shuffled across and flicked them to pickup singles, and whenever possible, employed the sweep shot to maximum use. Between the two, du Preez was the first to get her half-century. Bosch, who was the aggressor in the partnership, followed her to the landmark before getting out to Prathyusha C for 58 from 70 balls.
Together they added 96 runs for the fourth wicket, putting South Africa in a commendable position. Du Preez fell shortly after to Gayakwad for a 100-ball 57. All of a sudden, they were down to 131 for five. With 59 runs required from 82 balls, Marizanne Kapp and Nadine de Klerk were happy to rotate the strike and pick up the occasional boundaries.
Eventually, they chased down the target in 48.2 overs. While Kapp made 36 from42 balls, de Klerk scored a 39-ball 19. Gayakwad was the pick of the bowler for India taking three crucial wickets while conceding a measly 15 runs in her 10 overs.
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Earlier, having put into bat by the tourists, Indian openers started positively. Though there were a few nervy moments, both Smriti Mandhana and Priya Punia, especially the latter, kept the scoreboard moving with boundaries and singles. However, the relentless Shabnim Ismail rattled Punia with an array of short-pitched deliveries, hitting her on the helmet.
While Punia came back strongly to pull Ismail towards the square-leg boundary, the strategy did force her to stay on the back-foot. As a result, when Kapp brought one back sharply into her, Punia was stuck on the crease and lost the top of off-stump.
Punam Raut, who is the leading runscorer for India in this series, joined Mandhana in the middle. The duo added 26 runs before Raut top-edged a sweep off Nondumiso Shangase for ten runs from 18 balls. Mandhana followed her to the pavilion, trying to hook Tumi Sekhukhune over the square-leg boundary.
Once again, the responsibility fell on Mithali Raj and her deputy Harmanpreet Kaur to resurrect the innings. The experienced duo took their time to settle and slowly tried to build a partnership. In the next 15 overs, they added 49 runs together before starting to accelerate. Raj started to hit boundaries off Sekhukhune and Shangase.
Just when it seemed like they are set to accelerate in the last 20 overs, Kaur had to walk back to the pavilion as she had cramped herself while lofting Shangase down the ground. Hemalatha and Sushma Verma did not last long, and surprisingly Goswami and Monica Patel were sent in ahead of the leg-spinning allrounder Prathyusha. India were stuttering at 148 for five after 40 overs.
Meanwhile, Raj was trying to farm strike at the other end while making the most of the balls she faced. Losing partners at regular intervals did not help her cause. She brought up her 55th half-century in 71 balls and finished with an unbeaten 79 as India were all-out for 188 in 49.3 overs as Kaur did not come back to bat again.
Luus was smart with her bowling changes, completing Kapp's quota of overs early on and using de Klerk and Bosch to get through the middle-phase, saving Ismail for th death overs. But the way they bowled, Luus did not need the pacers services in the last few overs. De Klerk picked three wickets, giving away just 35 runs in her ten overs.
India 188 all-out (Mithali Raj 79*; Nadine de Klerk 3/35) lost to South Africa 189/5 in 48.2 overs (Anneke Bosch 58; Rajeshwari Gayakwad 3/13) by five wickets.