Chasing 249 to win, South Africa openers started sedately as Jhulan Goswami and Mansi Joshi didn’t allow Laura Wolvaardt and Lizelle Lee to break free in the first few overs. Only eight runs came from the first five overs. Lee got going with a couple of boundaries even as Wolvaardt struggled at the other end. Eventually, the new skipper’s stay at the crease was ended when she was bowled through the gate by Deepti Sharma for 12.
That didn’t deter Lee from going for her shots and she dealt with the spinners easily. She smashed Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Poonam Yadav through mid-wicket for fours before lofting Yadav over mid-on for another boundary. She brought up her 20th ODI fifty from 56 balls with a single off Gayakwad. However, Goswami’s return saw Lara Goodall losing her wicket to a catch at mid-on for 16.
Mignon du Preez joined Lee at the crease and she played second fiddle as the big-hitting Lee continued her assault on the spinners. She picked up three fours off spinners before launching Joshi for a couple of boundaries in 27th over. Slowly du Preez also joined Lee in taking advantage of good batting conditions and the experienced duo ran hard between the wickets and found boundaries at regular intervals. Lee got to her third century, most by any South African, in style when she launched Harmanpreet Kaur over extra cover for a six.
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Just as it looked like the visitors would run away with the game, Gayakwad removed du Preez for 37 to end the 97-run partnership. In what turned out to be a good period for India, Goswami dismissed Marizanne Kapp for a duck to wrestle the momentum. Only 12 runs came in the power play as South Africa lost these two important wickets.
Needing 67 runs from last ten overs, Lee played out a maiden after two seven-run overs as it started to rain. She then smashed Yadav for a six and hit Kaur for two consecutive boundaries to reduce target to 28 runs from the last four overs before the umpires decided to go off as the drizzle continued to fall with the score reading 223 for 4 in 46.3 overs.
Put into bat, it seemed like the match will follow a similar script to the first two matches when India lost Jemimah Rodrigues for a duck off Shabnim Ismail in the second ball of the innings. But India didn’t let Rodrigues’ dismissal, third single-digit score in as many matches, affect them as Punam Raut started the innings positively with three boundaries off Ismail.
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Meanwhile, Smriti Mandhana at the other end started the innings from where she left in the second ODI with a trademark cover drive. A couple of boundaries from the southpaw off Tumi Sekhukhune took India to 57 at the end of the tenth over.
However, against the run of play, India lost Mandhana as she lofted one straight to deep backward square-leg of Sekhukhune’s next over. But Mithali Raj and Raut made sure that the momentum isn’t lost as they put on 77 runs for the third wicket. Raut preferred the leg-side and played lap sweeps, regular sweeps flicks, and thumped a few deliveries through mid-wicket to pick up boundaries and brought up her second consecutive fifty of the series from 80 balls. Raj, on the other hand, took advantage whenever the South Africa bowlers erred.
In the 28th over, Raj smashed Anneke Bosch to two back-to-back boundaries to become the second player in women’s cricket to reach the 10,000 international runs milestone. But the joy was short-lived as she became Bosch’s first ODI wicket when she hit a full toss straight to short mid-wicket.
Kaur, started her innings slowly, while India lost another wicket in Raut soon with Kapp accounting for her when the right-hander was on 77. Kaur was on 5 from 23 deliveries before launched Sekhukhune over long-on for a six and then smashed Bosch for a couple of boundaries in the power play. She and Sharma added 60 runs for the fifth wicket before Kaur was dismissed by a brilliant catch from Sekhukhune at long-off.
Post Kaur’s dismissal, India failed to find big overs at the death and eventually finished at 248 for 5 in their stipulated 50 overs. For South Africa, Ismail finished with figures of 2 for 42 from her 10 overs.
Brief Scores: India: 248/5 in 50 overs ( Punam Raut 77, Deepti Sharma 36*; Shabnim Ismail 2/42) lost to South Africa 223/4 in 46.3 overs (Lizelle Lee 132*, Mignon du Preez 37; Jhulan Goswami 2/20) by six runs (DLS method)