In a thrilling encounter, India Women lost the last game of the three-match ODI series against South Africa Women by seven wickets, but the visitors, however, won the series 2-1. India got four points and they are now second in the ICC Women's Championship Table - 2017-21.
Mignon du Preez anchored the 241-run chase with an unbeaten 90 and was ably complemented by Dane van Niekerk (41* off 30) in taking SA to the finish line. Before stitching a brisk 72-run stand with the middle-order bat, du Preez partnered with opener Laura Wolvaardt (59 off 142) in setting up a foundation for the chase.
While India lost two wickets upfront, Deepti Sharma, who opened the innings in the third match dug in her heels and held up one end. With Harmanpreet Kaur she added 47 runs to the total until the middle-order bat’s innings ended for 25. Having survived when on three, Harmanpreet left edging van Niekerk to L Lee.
With India on 57 for three, Veda Krishnamurthy (56 off 60) then joined hands with Deepti in rebuilding the innings. The stylish middle-order attacked to up the ante.
The pair had taken India to 140 when Krishnamurthy’s got out sweeping Ntozakhe; only to be caught in the short fine-leg region. 46 runs later, the opener hit C Tryon towards deep mid-wicket and returned for 79 leaving India on 186 for five.
Mona Meshram followed her back a bit later leaving the side on 186 for six. 27 runs later Sushma Verma was sent back by Ismail. While Shikha Pandey (31* off 26) looked to glean runs off the SA bowlers, India continued to lose wickets at the other end.
Debutant Pooja Vastrakar and Ekta Bisht were castled by Ismail in the penultimate over leaving India on 233 for nine. Poonam Yadav, who then joined, Pandey in taking India to 240 was run out off the last ball of the innings.
Defending a respectable total, Pandey gave India their first breakthrough with the wicket of Lee leaving the Proteas Women on 10 for one. However, Wolvaardt held one end up stoically even as the Indian bowlers kept the flow of runs in check. 41 runs later A Steyn was caught by Yadav off her own bowling which brought du Preez to the crease.
With runs hard to come by, Wolvaardt and du Preez bided their time at the crease as they shaped the South African innings. Batting determinedly both batters brought their half-centuries as they denied India a breakthrough. The duo had taken the home team to 169 when Bisht struck to end the partnership by accounting for the opener. du Preez then found an able ally in van Niekerk. The duo continued to run the singles to keep the scoreboard ticking as they worked to keep the chase on course.
While the Indian bowlers ebbed the flow of runs, the batters held their nerve keeping the match hanging in the balance. van Niekerk looking to take on the bowlers found the boundary at regular intervals to ease off the pressure. Both batters survived as they took their chances.
With 12 required of 12 balls, Bisht was reintroduced into the attack but conceded 10 off the penultimate. The South Africans then sailed to finish line in the last over.
Player of the Series – Smriti Mandhana
Brief scorecard: India 240/10 in 50 overs (D Sharma 79, V Krishnamurthy 56, S Pandey 31*; S Ismail 4/30, C Tryon 2/48) lost to SA 241/3 in 49.2 overs (M du Preez 90*, L Wolvaardt 59, D van Niekerk 41*, E Bisht 1/38) by 7 wickets.