South Africa 130/3 van Niekerk 55, Lee 58* Sharma 2-33
Before rain washed out play at Supersport Park in the fourth T20I, South Africa were well on their way to a challenging total. After being put into bat by India, the South African openers began tentatively. Skipper Dane van Niekerk faced most of the strike in the beginning. She struggled to time the ball and pierce the gaps through the infield in the opening overs. Yet, she scrapped her way through sheer willpower.
Rumeli Dhar, who had last donned the India cap in 2012, likewise initially struggled with her rhythm in her opening spell punctuated by an above-the-waist-high no-ball. She did well to finish her first spell with figures of 14 runs from 2 overs. But she never really looked threatening. Pooja Vastrakar at the other end found hints of away swing and bowled well for her 3 overs yielding 10 runs. Rajeshwari Gayakwad bowled a solitary over inside the Powerplay which went for 15 runs including the first six of the match by Lizelle Lee which was caught superbly by an ecstatic spectator. South Africa had established a good platform with 44-0 at the end of the Powerplay. Once the spinners were on, van Niekerk started batting more assuredly. Though she slipped at times at the crease, she used her feet well and moved around the crease to counter the spin. South Africa brought up their 50 in 40 balls.
Lee finally made her start count. She was a good foil to van Niekerk, rotating the strike and finding the occasional boundary. Both openers employed the sweep shot to great effect against the Indian spinners in the middle overs. Consequently, they put up the highest partnership (103 from 75 balls) for South Africa in the series.
Gayakwad, brought back in the 11th over, was welcomed with a six by van Niekerk. Then Lee got into the act, pummeling a horribly wide outside off delivery towards long on for a six. It was once again a chastening over, going for 16 runs. van Niekerk brought up her sixth T20I fifty by launching Deepti Sharma over long on for a maximum.
South Africa raised the team hundred in the same over and looked well set for a huge total. However, India struck back with some cheap wickets. van Niekerk lifted Sharma and couldn’t clear the infield. Dhar at mid-off completed a simple catch and van Niekerk was dismissed for 55 from 47 balls. South Africa decided to try out Chloe Tryon at number 3. It was an aggressive move which didn’t pay off. Tryon pulled Poonam Yadav parallel to the crease straight to square leg. Dhar took her second catch of the match and Tryon departed, just 2 runs from 4 balls.
Sune Luus (5 from 3 balls) fell lbw to Sharma, in trying to sweep. Though Sharma bagged 2 wickets, she was expensive, her 3 overs going for 33 runs. Lee at the other end remained unruffled and continued to play her shots. One six in particular, off Sharma, was sent right into the stands. She remained unbeaten at 58 from 38 balls. The match was well poised with South Africa 130/3 before rain came down and dampened the proceedings. Incidentally, it was India’s first ever abandoned T20I.
It was a disappointing end to what looked to be a cracking match. India, though, must have been mightily relieved. They now have an unassailable lead of 2-1. South Africa now need to win the final T20I to square the series.