India 166/4 Raj 62, Rodrigues 44 Kapp 1-22
South Africa 112/10 Kapp 27, Tryon 25 Pandey 3-16, Gayakwad 3-26, Dhar 3-26
by 54 runs
India registered an emphatic victory over South Africa at Cape Town to seal the 5-match T20I series 3-1. The win capped off a highly successful tour for India, who won the ODI series earlier 2-1. India set a target of 167 thanks mainly due to the match-winning 98-run partnership between Mithali Raj and Jemimah Rodrigues. There may have been an age gulf between the 35-year-old veteran and the 17-year-old new kid on the block, but they batted together like old pros.
After the early departure of Smriti Mandhana, who found the going difficult in the early overs when the ball was swinging around, Rodrigues came to the crease to join Raj. Both initially found it difficult to score though Ayabonga Khaka’s first over which included a staggering 6 wides certainly helped India. 39 runs were scored in the Powerplay.
Once the spinners came on though, Raj and Rodrigues moved into higher gears. The boundaries started flowing freely. Not until the 16th over was their stand broken. Raj edged a short delivery from Ismail into the keeper’s hands to be dismissed for 62 from 50 balls. Bar a mishit or two, it was a polished fifty by Raj, full of elegant cover drives. It was also her fifth fifty in six matches, a stunning vein of form.
Rodrigues, always busy at the crease a la Joe Root, also muscled several boundaries. Unfortunately, she became victim to another short ball before completing a well deserved half century for 44 from 34 balls. India were 134-3 at that juncture, a perfect time for Harmanpreet Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy to come in. They did not disappoint, pulling India to a challenging 166. South Africa, needing to win the game to level the series, were tentative in their reply. The first over bowled by Pooja Vastrakar was a maiden. Shikha Pandey also found plenty of swing to trouble the batsman, giving away just 3 runs in the second over. The pressure was mounting and India finally reaped the rewards in the 4th over, when Dane van Niekerk (10 from 12) mishit to mid-on. It was Rumeli Dhar’s first wicket in almost 6 years.
There was no respite for South Africa. Sune Luus (5 from 8) departed in the next over bowled by Pandey. Lizelle Lee was the next to go in the 6th over, Dhar bagging her second wicket. South Africa were on the ropes at the end of the Powerplay with a score of 22/3. Mignon du Preez and Chloe Tryon briefly held the innings together. But Pandey returning in her 3rd over derailed the chase by first dismissing du Preez (17 off 11) and then Nadine de Klerk. With half the side gone at 44, it was always going to be an uphill task for South Africa. Tryon and Marizanne Kapp provided some cheer before Tryon (25 from 17) stepping down the wicket lofted a ball from Rajeshwari Gayakwad to Kaur at long-off.
Kapp (27 from 21 balls) hit some lovely sixes. She looked to be set for another six when Rodrigues leaped into the air to complete a stunning catch. It was symptomatic of India’s complete dominance in the match. Their ground fielding was top-class too. 109/8 and it was a tall order for the lower-order batsmen. Gayakwad picked up another couple of wickets in the 18th over and it was all over for South Africa. Gayakwad, Pandey, and Dhar all finished with 3 wickets each.
Mithali Raj richly picked up both the Player of the Match and the Player of the Series award for consistent performance.