India Women outplayed South Africa Women in the fifth T20I to win the five-match T20I series 3-1. Mithali Raj’s 62-run blitzkrieg complemented by Jemimah Rodrigues’ 44 helped set a competitive 167-run target. The three pronged Indian pace attack – Shikha Pandey (3/16), Rumeli Dhar (3/26) and Pooja Vastrakar - then wrecked the Proteas line-up. Spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad (3/26) helped bowl out the hosts for 112 to claim a 54-run win.
Asked to bat first, India got off the mark with four leg byes and the first runs off the bat came from Smriti Mandhana; a cover drive off A Khaka. The bowler conceded 11 runs off the over, only five off which came off the bat. Mithali, who has been in peak form, got into the groove with two boundaries off S Ismail to set the tone. While a brilliant running catch by Klaas saw the back Smriti with India on 32 for one, Mithali found an ally in the young Rodrigues.
While the running between the wickets helped maintain a steady flow of runs, Mithali’s trademark elegant drives besides the lofted shots over the fence shifted the momentum in India’s favour. The youngster too followed suit as she stepped out of the crease to take the attack to the bowlers. Mithali continued to dismiss the bowler to the fence at regular intervals.
However, as she looked to further accelerate the run rate, Mithali departed edging Ismail to the wicketkeeper after hitting the bowler for back-to-back fours. In the next over Rodrigues, who was within sniffing distance of a well-deserved maiden fifty, got out afer top-edging Khaka and the bowler caught the ball spiralling down.
With 19 balls left in the innings, Veda Krishnamurthy joined Harmanpreet in the middle and the duo added 32 runs to the total to take the tally to 166. While Krishnamurthy was run out for eight off the last ball, Harmanpreet remained unbeaten on 27.
Pooja Vastrakar got India off to a good start with a maiden over and Pandey, back in the side, also bowled a tight spell. It was the veteran Dhar who gave India their first breakthrough. Looking to break the shackles, Dane van Niekerk departed hitting the bowler to mid-on where Pandey took a good catch. In the next over, Pandey rattled S Luus’ stumps and Dhar followed up with the wicket of L Lee leaving SA reeling at 20 for three. In an effort to ease some of the pressure, M du Preez looked to take the attack to India but after three boundaries, departed hitting Pandey to Mithali at covers. Two balls later, a fuller ball from Pandey hit de Klerk’s pad and rolled on to the stumps leaving SA on 44 for five.
Facing an uphill task, Chloe Tryon looked to keep the innings in the reckoning with Kapp. But couple of overs later returned holing out to long-off. With the required run rate climbing up, Proteas Women needed to hit big and the India continued to tighten the noose. Although Gayakwad was hit for a couple of sixes by Kapp, but runs were hard to come by. With pressure mounting Ismail was stumped off Poonam Yadav. And in the next over, Rodrigues pulled off a blinder at the deep mid-wicket boundary line to send back Kapp. The batter looking to clear the fence had hit hard, but the youngster’s superbly timed jump and the balance ensuring she didn’t touch the rope while landing left SA reeling at 108 for eight. In the following over Gayakwad claimed Khaka and Klaas off successive deliveries to wrap-up the match with 12 balls to spare.
Brief scorecard: India 166/4 in 20 overs (M Raj 62, R Rodrigues 44, H Kaur 27*) beat SA 112/10 in 18 overs (M Kapp 27, S Pandey 3/16, R Dhar 3/26, R Gayakwad 3/26) by 54 runs.
Player of the Match: Mithali Raj for her 50-ball 62 to set-up the match for India
Player of the Series: Mithali Raj for aggregating 192 runs in the series.