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India Women came back strongly to clinch the five-match T20 series at 3-1 (including a no result) with a clinical performance that resulted in a 54-run win against South Africa Women in the fifth T20I at Cape Town on Saturday.

 

Solid top-order performances by senior batswoman, Mithali Raj (62) and rising star, Jemimah Rodrigues (44) along with a good performance by the opening pacers, Pooja Vastrakar and Shikha Pandey ensured India women do a double on tour. The visitors had earlier won the one-day leg at 2-1.

 

With moisture in the air expected to assist the speedsters, India brought back pacer, Shikha Pandey for batting all-rounder, Deepti Sharma while right-arm medium pacer, Ayabonga Khaka made a return for South Africa replacing left-arm medium pacer, Moseline Daniels for South Africa. South Africa on winning the toss put in the opposition in to bat first given that weather could favor their side.

 

India Women lost the prolific Smriti Mandhana rather early on 13, not before she put on a decent opening stand of 32 with Mithali Raj. Mandhana while trying to up the ante a further notch holed out in the deep to a sterling diving catch by Masabata Klaas in Marizanne Kapp ’s fifth over. Promising 17-year-old batswoman, Jemimah Rodrigues coming in began her innings rather sketchily as her senior partner took upon the onus on herself to keep up the momentum. Rodrigues gradually grew in confidence to bring in the aerial shots and along with Raj, raised 98-runs in 11.3 overs. With India looking good to post a total a score in excess of 180, Raj 62 (50b, 8×4, 3×6) and Rodrigues 44 (34b, 3×4, 2×6) were dismissed in quick succession to peg them back. Though Shabnim Ismail and Khaka were the benefactors of these key sticks respectively, it was smart bowling by captain Dane van Niekerk that kept things from going beyond control with her effective leggies in the middle overs. But big-hitting T20 captain, Harmanpreet Kaur did her reputation no harm with a 17-ball 27-run cameo that allowed her side to post a competitive 166/4.

 

Right-arm medium pacer, Marizanne Kapp (1/22) and all-rounder Dane van Niekerk (0/22) bowled well for the Protean side.Chasing a competitive score on a sporting wicket, in-form South Africa Women openers, Lizelle Lee and van Niekerk could not continue their free-scoring ways from the abandoned Centurion game.

 

Baroda seamer, Pooja Vastrakar bowled with maturity beyond her years spearheading the three-pronged attack with aplomb. Much like in the third T2O at Johannesburg, she started out with a maiden against Lee. At the other end, Shikha Pandey making a return to the playing XI bowled miserly too. The scarcity of runs in the initial overs eventually took a toll on the Protean openers. Dane van Niekerk (10) succumbed to the gentle medium pace of Rumeli Dhar in the fourth over while Sune Luus (5) departed in Pandey ’s next over. Lee (3) did not last long either perishing to Dhar within the Power Play. At 22/3 in six overs, South Africa had a mountain to climb. With Mignon Du Preez (17) and Nadine de Klerk (4) also dismissed by Pandey, South Africa were tottering at 44/5 inside nine overs. But with arguably the biggest-hitter in the women’s game, Chloe Tryon still around and Kapp, a more than handy bat there, a semblance of hope existed. But with Tryon gone after making a 17-ball 25 to the left-arm orthodox guiles of Rajeshwari Gayakwad, the hopes of South Africa of making a match of it were doused. Kapp gamely carried on to make a quick 27 (21b, 1×4, 2×6) and her dismissal to a well-adjudged catch on the jump at the boundary by Rodrigues was the highlight of the day.

 

The rest of the batting capitulated and South Africa were eventually all out for 112 in 18 overs. Vastrakar was the stand-out bowler conceding only 14 runs in three overs without any rewards. Pandey and Dhar complemented her Vastrakar ’s outstanding opening spell with three wickets each. The slow bowlers, Poonam Yadav and Rajeshwari Gayakwad also had a good day on the field.

 

Mithali Raj (India) was declared the Player of the Match and the Player of the T20 series as well (54*, 76*, 0 and 62 which included three POM awards). India Women now return home to take on their Australian counterparts in a three-match one-day series starting March 12 at Reliance Stadium, Vadodara as part of the ICC Women’s Championship.