For a change, South Africa batted first. India had won the toss and had chosen to chase. That was the only change in the fifth T20I – one that was arranged on a very short notice owing to two matches in the series being washed out. Otherwise the script was a similar one to the earlier games.
Yet again India’s spinners troubled South Africa’s batters and restricted them to a below par score, before the batters saw India romp home by five wickets with 17 balls to spare at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium in Surat on Thursday (October 3).
South Africa had a new opening combination in Lizelle Lee and captain Sune Luus. The first boundary that they got – an outside edge off Luus’ blade – was pretty much a sign of things to come, at least at the start. Deepti Sharma and Shikha Pandey opened the bowling for India and they gave little away.
While Deepti did her thing, getting good turn early on, Pandey kept on varying her pace and putting the South Africa batters on the spot. Deepti’s third over in the power play – the fifth of the innings – seemed to be the catalyst for South Africa. She was hit for successive fours by Lee.
But just then, Radha Yadav was brought on to bowl the final over of the power play and she struck off the first ball. Luus missed her attempted sweep and had to walk back with a score of seven against her name.
The cliché of one wicket bringing another stood true as Lee departed next over to Poonam Yadav, who deployed a different tactic of bowling from round the wicket. She had scored 16 runs off the 22 balls and was clearly struggling with her timing.
Laura Wolvaardt and Nadine de Klerk had a semblance of control over the proceedings then. The duo kept working the spinners off their pads, getting the odd boundary. They had, just like that, strung a partnership of 32 for the third wicket.
That’s when Harmanpreet Kaur came to the party. She slowed one down and Wolvaardt, on her knees, was early into the swipe across the line saw her stumps rattled when she was on 17. At that stage, South Africa had lost their third wicket with just 57 runs on the board.
What then followed was a template that most have witnessed in this series. The middle order of the tourists failed to withstand yet another trial by spin. For a change, most of their batters did get into double figures but couldn’t carry on for long.
India’s spin attack was led by Radha, who finished with three wickets to her name and gave away just 23 runs. Deepti continued to be consistent for the hosts, finishing with a pair of wickets against her name. Pooja Vastrakar, making a comeback in this series, was the only bowler who looked off-colour. She conceded 11 runs in the one over she bowled – one that included a beamer as well as an over-head wide.
Chasing 99 to seal the series – South Africa stood a chance of squaring it due to the extra game – India didn’t get off to the best of starts. Shafali Verma began briskly with three fours but departed soon for a 12-ball 14. Smriti Mandhana (7) and Jemimah Rodrigues (7) were sent back soon as well and India found themselves in a spot of bother at three for 29 just after the power play.
The starting phase, where Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka largely kept things under control, was the only one where South Africa had the upper hand in the match. Once Kaur and Deepti got together after the fall of the third wicket, they ensured that they had the game in their pockets.
The duo added 50 runs before Deepti fell to a good caught and bowled effort by Ismail. However, captain Kaur stayed in till the end, remaining unbeaten on 34 off 31 balls to ensure the result stayed on expected lines.
Brief Scores: South Africa 98/8 in 20 overs (Laura Wolvaardt 17, Lizelle Lee 16; Radha Yadav 3-23, Deepti Sharma 2-19) lost to India 99/5 in 17.1 overs (Harmanpreet Kaur 34, Deepti Sharma 16; Shabnim Ismail 2-19) by five wickets. PoM: HArmanpreet Kaur.