CAPE TOWN – India’s experience and youthful energy helped them power past the Proteas in the Women’s T20 series decider at Newlands on Saturday.
On a day in when everything went right for India, the visitors posted 166/4, with Mithali Raj (62) and Jemimah Rodrigues (44) putting on a 98-run stand in what was a surreal display of the team’s present and future batting in tandem.
Then, the 34-year-old Rumeli Dhar picked up a three-wicket haul – her first wickets since coming back into the side after six years out – as South Africa Women were restricted to 112.
India’s 54-run victory ensured they claimed the T20I series 3-1, to go with their 2-1 win in the ODIs earlier in the tour.
The visitors were put in, and after a brief rain delay, play got under way in earnest.
South Africa had the breakthrough fairly early on – Marizanne Kapp repeatedly probed outside Smriti Mandhana’s off-stump, forcing a couple of false shots.
She soon resorted to slogging, and a mistimed effort found more height than distance, with Masabata Klaas putting in an excellent dive to take a fine catch at deep mid-wicket.
However, for a while thereafter, South Africa didn’t have much going for them as Raj and Rodrigues got going.
They took a couple of overs to settle in before Raj signalled the changing of gears with a mammoth six off Klaas, lofting it over long-off after going down on a knee.
In the next over, she charged down and lifted Proteas captain Dané van Niekerk over long-on for another six. She did so again in the next over off Raisibe Ntozakhe.
Rodrigues had been largely quiet, apart from a couple of fours meanwhile, but she got into the act as well in Ntozakhe’s next over, hammering a six over midwicket.
The 100-run mark was crossed in the 14th over before Raj brought up her 13th half-century in T20Is.
The two then picked on Shabnim Ismail, Rodrigues going for a big slog, before Raj threaded consecutive fours.
At this point India seemed on course for a massive total, but they lost two crucial wickets in quick succession – Ismail had Raj caught behind for a brilliant 50-ball 62, before Rodrigues, having scored an adventurous 34-ball 44, mistimed a pull and was caught by Ayabonga Khaka off her own bowling.
Two new batters, Harmanpreet Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy, had no time to settle in the death overs. As it turned out, they didn’t need to settle in much either. Harmanpreet hammered a 17-ball 27, comprising two sixes off Khaka and Kapp, with Krishnamurthy happy to forgo the strike. The two added a quick 32 to set a tricky total.
South Africa never looked likely to topple it given the start they had. The home side were reduced to 20/3, with Dhar getting the all-important opening wicket, dismissing van Niekerk for a 12-ball 10.
Suné Luus (5) lasted just eight balls before Pandey had her bowled with an excellent yorker that angled into the stumps.
When Lizelle Lee’s 13-ball stay was ended by Dhar, South Africa were in all sorts of trouble.
It never really got better. Mignon du Preez and Chloe Tryon added a quick 20 to hint at a recovery before Pandey had du Preez (17) chipping one to cover for her second wicket.
Three balls later, she had her third, Van Niekerk letting an inside-edge trickle on to her stumps. At that stage, at 44/5, South Africa seemed to have no way back.
Kapp came in and lent much-needed stability though. She provided good support to Tryon, and the two added 27 for the sixth wicket before Tryon holed out off Gayakwad.
Kapp then went on the aggressive, adding 29 runs with Ismail (8) for the seventh wicket before the latter was beaten by Poonam Yadav’s wrong’un and was stumped.
When Kapp herself holed out off Dhar – Rodrigues took an absolute peach in the deep, timing her jump to perfection to deny what seemed a sure-shot six – for a 21-ball 27, South Africa’s fight was stifled.
Gayakwad had both Klaas and Khaka dismissed in consecutive balls as India sealed a hugely impressive victory.