Chance of T20 series win slips through SA’s fingers

Smriti Mandhana, seen here, and Shafali Varma made easy work of chasing down the Proteas Women’s 84 all out during the third T20I yesterday. | IANS

Smriti Mandhana, seen here, and Shafali Varma made easy work of chasing down the Proteas Women’s 84 all out during the third T20I yesterday. | IANS

Published Jul 9, 2024


Zaahier Adams

South Africa: 84 all out

Brits 20, Bosch 17, Vastrakar 4/13

India: 88/0

Mandhana 54*, Varma 27*

India won by 10 wickets, and tied the series 1-1

The Proteas Women’s team failed to capitalise on an opportunity to rescue a disastrous tour of India yesterday at the Chepauk Stadium in Chennai with India’s sublime opener Smriti Mandhana once again stamping her authority on proceedings.

Having been swept 3-0 in the ODI series and crushed in the one-off Test by 10 wickets, the Proteas headed into the final match of the tour with a chance at redemption. But they will instead head home after suffering another heavy 10-wicket defeat as the hosts levelled the T20 series yesterday.

The match could not have gone more right for one side or more wrong for the other. India were controlled with the ball, assertive with the bat, and if their catching – particularly chances offered to the bowlers – was not quite as impressive, it hardly mattered.

Dependent, probably overdependent, on captain Laura Wolvaardt and Tazmin Brits for a vibrant start, the Proteas went hard in the opening two overs of the powerplay.

It started well enough with Wolvaardt and Brits crashing a couple of boundaries on both sides of the wicket. But India had learnt their lessons from the preceding two powerplays where they conceded 44-0 and 66-1. Arundhati Reddy was right on the mark from the outset with the off-spinner keeping Brits in check as her handsome strokes went straight to fielders.

This built up the pressure on the skipper Wolvaardt, who felt she needed to make a play, but could only hole out to mid-off the next over. And when Marizanne Kapp was caught at midwicket after again looking in sublime form with a sweetly timed cut shot just a few balls earlier, the remainder of the Proteas’ innings rested on Brits’ broad shoulders.

After having struck successive half-centuries in the preceding two matches, Brits (20 off 23 balls) also succumbed to a soft dismissal in her attempt to clear the fielders in the inner circle.

From thereon the Proteas innings folded with Indian seam bowler Pooja Vastrakar (4-13) running through the middle-to-lower order as the visitors lost their last eight wickets for the addition of only 41 runs.

India’s run chase, or rather stroll, to victory was once again led by the superb Mandhana (54 not out off 40 balls).

The classy left-handed opener has been on a different level this past month. She struck successive centuries in the first two ODIs (113 and 136) and then another 90 in the third match.

After her white-ball exploits, Mandhana turned her focus to the longest format of the game where she posted 149 from just 161 deliveries in a 292-run first-wicket stand with Shafali Varma.

The pair were unstoppable again last night with Mandhana cutting and driving with precision, while Varma (27 not out) brought the power as India cruised to victory without any blemishes on the scorecard. It was only fitting that it was Mandhana that struck the winning runs with a sweetly timed maximum over fine leg to also bring up her half-century.

The final T20I was not only an opportunity for Wolvaardt to win her first series as T20 skipper since taking charge last year, but it was also the Proteas’ last official match before the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup gets under way in Bangladesh in September.

With the team also still in limbo in relation to securing a full-time head coach, there is plenty of work to be done both on and off the field over the next few months if the Proteas are to replicate their runners-up position achieved at the last T20 World Cup held in South Africa last year.