South Africa 134/5 Luus 41, Tryon 34 Vastrakar 2-21
India 133/10 Harmanpreet 48, Mandhana 37 Ismail 5-30
by five wickets
In a must-win game, South Africa conjured up an inspired bowling performance in the 3rd T20I and kept the series alive at 2-1. On winning the toss, they chose to bowl first perhaps due to suffering chastening defeats on batting first in the earlier T20Is. Marizanne Kapp started off the proceedings with plenty of swing and made Mithali Raj uncomfortable during her short stay at the crease. Kapp had a shout for lbw on the very first ball of the match and Raj was saved by the height. Finally on the fifth ball, she was beguiled by an out-swinger. She drove on the up and only managed to nick the ball into the wicketkeeper’s glove. After four consecutive fifties, Raj was out for a duck.
A parched wicket-maiden over was followed by an oasis. Shabnim Ismail’s first ball fetched 4 runs in the form of overthrows. Smriti Mandhana unfurled an array of shots over the next 3 balls to rack up 3 successive boundaries. 17 runs in the second over and India were back. Dane van Niekerk persisted with Kapp for another 2 testing overs which went for only 6 runs. However Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur managed to carve boundaries in the remaining overs of the Powerplay and India were 49-1 by the end of it.
Mandhana then pulled a flat and short delivery from van Niekerk. But she couldn’t clear Moseline Daniels at mid-wicket. 37 runs from 24 balls, it was perhaps a rare failure by her standards. New kid on the block Jemimah Rodrigues survived two difficult chances, both return catches to Raisibe Ntozakhe and van Niekerk respectively.
At the other end Kaur, who’s had a quiet T20 series, was in full flourish. The 11th over in particular by Ntozakhe came in for some punishment by Kaur, a towering six a joyous highlight. The next over by Ismail was to prove a decisive turning point. Kaur was accounted for by another away-swinger for 48 runs from 30 deliveries. She would turn out to be the top-scorer. Later in the over, Rodrigues couldn’t keep a fuller delivery down and was snapped up by cover for 6 runs off 10 balls. India were 95-4 and on
Ismail struck again in her third over with the wicket of Anuja Patil ( 7 off 8 balls) aided by a superb catch by Sune Luus. Veda Krishnamurthy, the dasher, struck three boundaries but couldn’t last long enough and was cleaned up by Daniels for 23 runs from 14 balls. For the first time in the series, India’s middle order was tested and they couldn’t stand up to the scrutiny. Masabata Klaas, playing for the first time in the series in place of Ayabonga Khaka, found success in her third over with the wickets of Tania Bhatia (1 off 3) and Shikha Pandey (3 off 5). Ismail capped off her bowling dismissing Poonam Yadav and Pooja Vastrakar to finish with figures of 5-30; an impressive comeback considering her disastrous start. It was also the second-best figures for South Africa in T20s. India lost their last 5 wickets for 9 runs to finish at 133 in 17.5 overs.
Vastrakar started off with a maiden and South Africa were effectively chasing 134 in 19 overs. Lizelle Lee (5 from 12 balls) departed early in Vastrakar’s second over, hitting a wide delivery to be caught in the deep by Patil. India needed early wickets and this was a welcome start. They bowled tight lines and kept South Africa to just 16 runs from 4 overs.The shackles were broken in Vastrakar’s third over courtesy of three boundaries plundered by van Niekerk (26 from 20 balls). However she soon departed in the very next over to a tantalizingly flighted delivery by Rajeshwari Gayakwad. Niekerk was deceived as the ball spun away and wicketkeeper Bhatia completed the proceedings. Thus by the end of the Powerplay South Africa were 35/2, well behind the required run rate of 7.07.
The spinners Patil and Yadav backed up the opening efforts. Together they gave away just 20 runs in 4 overs amid a stunning piece of fielding by Mandhana near the boundary line. The required rate had now climbed up to 7.9. 13 runs in the 11th over by Pandey- it was manna from heaven for the South Africans. Once again the spinners were called upon to tie down the runs. The mounting pressure paid off with Mignon du Preez (20 from 27 balls) holing out to Krishnamurthy off the bowling of Yadav.
In walked Chloe Tryon. As is her wont, she blasted a six and a couple of boundaries and reduced the equation to 25 runs from 24 balls, Patil her victim. There was a further twist when Luus (41 from 34 balls), who had been holding one end, failed to clear cover becoming Vastrakar’s second wicket. A handy boundary in the 18th over and South Africa needed just 13 from 12 balls.
A couple of poor deliveries by Patil and Tryon was onto them in a flash. She dispatched them for 10 runs and it was all over. Though Patil eventually snared Tryon (34 from 15 balls), it was a poor day for her with figures of 1-44 (4).
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India will rue that they didn’t bat all 20 overs. But for us spectators the series is still alive and kicking.
Player of the Match: Shabnim Ismail