Whirlwind Verma takes India home after Gayakwad’s guile; South Africa win series 2-1
Career-best bowling figures from Rajeshwari Gayakwad and a hurricane 30-ball 60 from Shafali Verma and her 96-run partnership with Smriti Mandhana headlined India’s comprehensive nine-wicket win against South Africa in the third T20I at the Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on Tuesday (March 23).
Chasing 113 to win, India got off to a whirlwind start with Shafali Verma hammering experienced Shabnim Ismail for 18 runs in the first over. She first guided the pacer through fine-leg before launching her over long-on. She then smashed one through point before edging the final delivery over the keeper for the third boundary of the over.
Big-hitting Verma added three more sixes by the four overs completed as she hit Tumi Sekhukhune over mid-wicket before launching Nadine de Klerk twice down the ground. Smriti Mandhana joined the party smashing Ismail for three boundaries in the next over as India raced to 64 at the end of five overs. Ismail went for 37 runs from her first two overs. Another boundary in the final over of the power play took India to 71 for 0 at the end of six overs.
Mandhana played two trademark cover drives in the seventh over bowled by Nondumiso Shangase to reduce the required target to just 38 from 78 balls. Verma reached to her third T20I fifty from 26 balls when she hit Sekhukhune through wide long-off for another boundary. It was her joint-fastest fifty and India’s third joint-fastest fifty in the format.
The-17-year old finally was dismissed for 60 off 30 when Shangase was caught by Ismail on the boundary, but not before adding one more six to her bag. But the damage was already long done with the opening pair putting on 96 runs from 51 balls. Harleen Deol scored a boundary in her first ball before Mandhana finished the match with three consecutive boundaries in the 11th over to finish the match in style with plenty of overs to spare.
Opting to field after their second toss win of the series in eight matches, India opening bowlers Arundhati Reddy and Gayakwad managed to keep South Africa quiet in the power play giving away only 15 runs from the first six overs. Reddy was unfortunate not to get a wicket with Deepti Sharma dropping Lee in her third over.
But Gayakwad at the other end had an impressive spell dismissing both the openers. Anneke Bosch tried to play across the wicket and was bowled with the bowling pitching around middle and leg and turning away. Then she castled Lizelle Lee with a quicker one that went straight to send the in-form batter back to the pavilion for 12. She finished the power play with 3-1-2-2.
Post power play India introduced second left-arm spinner in Radha Yadav and was immediately rewarded with the big wicket of Laura Wolvaardt when the right-hander was caught at extra-cover by Sharma for a duck to reduce South Africa to 16 for 3 from 6.3 overs.
Faye Tunnicliffe, playing her first match in the series, had a tough time at the other end and with skipper Sune Luus also taking her time, South Africa score crawled to 31 for 3 at the end of ten overs. Although Tunnicliffe found a boundary in the next over, her laborious stay at the crease finally came to an end when she became Simran Dil Bahadur’s first wicket in international cricket to be bowled for 18 off 35.
Nadine de Klerk joined Luus and the pair added some urgency to the innings with three boundaries, with Luus taking on Deol to hit one to mid-wicket boundary before driving another through extra-cover. But de Klerk became Gayakwad’s third victim as the left-arm spinner finished with her career-best figures of 3 for 9.
Once Luus was dismissed for 28 off 25, it looked like South Africa would struggle to go past the 100-run mark, but an enterprising partnership between Sinalo Jafta and Lara Goodall took South Africa over the three-figure mark. The duo picked 16 runs from Bahadur’s third over with a few innovative shots behind the wicket.
Although Jafta was dismissed by Reddy for 16 off 9 balls, Goodall remained not out on 25 off 17 to take South Africa to 112 for 7 from their 20 overs.
For India, Gayakwad the most successful bowler with her career-best figures, while four other bowlers picked up one wicket each.
Brief Scores: South Africa 112/7 in 20 overs (Sune Luus 28, Lara Goodall 25*; Rajeshwari Gayakwad 3/9) lost to India 114/1 in 11 overs (Shafali Verma 60, Smriti Mandhana 48* ) by nine wickets