Put in to bat for the third time in the series, Smriti Mandhana, opening with Priya Punia, who came in place of out-of-touch Jemimah Rodrigues, started off with two trademark boundaries through point before she became Shabnim Ismail’s 150th ODI victim.
In-form Punam Raut joined Punia and South Africa bowlers kept it tight as the pair took time to get going. Punia broke the shackles with three boundaries in the tenth over bowled by Tumi Sekhukhune. She trod the gap in the off-side twice again off Ayabonga Khaka to take her score to 30.
However, just as Punia was looking good for more she was caught brilliantly at short fine-leg by Khaka when she top-edged Nondumiso Shangase to end her innings on 32 off 51. With the score reading 61 for 2 in 15.1 overs, Raut and Mithali Raj started slowly as only 26 runs came in the next nine overs. Despite a couple of boundaries from there, the fifty partnership between the two came only in the 29th over.
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In the 32nd over, Raut hit Marizanne Kapp for back-to-back boundaries to bring up her third fifty from 68 balls in the series from as many matches. India started the batting power play with three boundaries before Sekhukhune dismissed Raj to end the 103 runs partnership in the 38th over.
That brought Harmanpreet Kaur to the crease and she looked in pristine touch right from the start. The right-hander started with a boundary through point before driving another through cover. By the end of power play, Kaur reached 20 off nine balls with India scoring 46 runs from those five overs.
Post power play, Kaur continued going for the boundaries as Raut moved into the 80s. Kaur got past fifty comfortably from only 33 balls after she launched Sekhukhune over mid-wicket for a six and a single. She added one more boundary before Sekhukhune had her revenge as she castled India vice-captain for 54.
At the other end, Raut brought up her third ODI century off 119 balls in the 49th over as she continued to ride on the good form in the series. India finished with 266 for 4 in 50 overs with only 14 runs coming from the last two overs.
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For South Africa, Sekhukhune was the most successful bowler with two wickets but was expensive.
Chasing 267 to win, South Africa got off to a rapid start with Indian bowlers providing them width on both sides of the wicket. 12 boundaries came in the first ten overs as Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt took on the spinners as well as the lone pacer in Mansi Joshi.
Joshi was taken for boundaries through the off-side both the opening batters, while Lee also smashed her through mid-wicket for a four. Radha Yadav, making her debut struggled with her line, was countered by hard sweeps from Lee and when overcompensated on the off-side she was hit through point for four.
Big-hitting Lee brought up her fifty off 57 balls and soon the pair brought up their second century partnership of the series in the 20th over.
However, Kaur provided India with the breakthrough when she had Lee trapped in front of the wicket for 69 to end the 116-run opening partnership. In the 28th over, Joshi came back to dismiss stand-in skipper Wolvaardt for 53 off 78.
Southpaw Lara Goodall started slowly but in the company of experienced Mignon du Preez grew into confidence as the duo added fifty runs from 58 balls. Du Preez took on leg-spinner Poonam Yadav and launched her over long-on before smashing a full toss through the same region. Goodall used her feet against the spinners, choosing to loft Rajeshwari Gayakwad for inside-out shot and hitting Deepti Sharma for a couple of boundaries. In the last over of the power play, du Preez smashed three consecutive boundaries off Radha end the productive phase with 36 runs from it.
Needing 61 runs from the last ten overs, du Preez toyed with the bowlers, first paddling Kaur for a four on her way to fifty from 45 balls and then added two more fours in the next over bowled by Joshi. When Gayakwad removed du Preez for 61 off 55 to end the 103-run partnership, South Africa needed only 31 runs from 34 balls.
Young left-hander Goodall brought up her fifty from 60 balls as she guided South Africa to a record chase in the company of Marizanne Kapp with the bowling allrounder finishing off the innings with a couple of boundaries off Radha.
Brief Scores: India 266/4 in 50 overs (Punam Raut 104*, Harmanpreet Kaur 54; Tumi Sekhukhune 2/63) lost to South Africa 267/3 in 48.4 (Lizelle Lee 69, Mignon du Preez 61, Lara Goodall 59*, Laura Wolvaardt 53) by seven wickets