India’s four-match winning streak in the ICC Women’s World Cup ended with a 115-run loss against South Africa in Leicester on Saturday.
The player of the match was South African captain Dane van Niekerk who first made a valuable 57 off 66 balls to guide South Africa to 273/9 before taking four wickets with her leg-spin to dismiss India for 158 in 46 overs. Opener Lizelle Lee also made a significant contribution by hammering 92 off 65 balls after Mithali Raj put them in to bat at Grace Road.
India’s chase was all but over when they collapsed to 56/6 in the 17th over. But Deepti Sharma held fort for India with a solid 60 off 111 balls with support from number nine Jhulan Goswami, who remained unbeaten on 43.
Other than these two, all Indian batters seemed to crumble under scoreboard pressure. Opener Smriti Mandhana, who took the tournament by storm with a 90 and 106 in the first two games, suffered a third single-digit dismissal in a row. Captain Mithali Raj fell for her first ever golden duck in ODI cricket, while the experienced Harmanpreet Kaur also fell without scoring, both to Niekerk in one over.
Earlier, Indian bowlers bounced back after Lee’s brutal attack at the top of the order before Niekerk revived the South African innings with a crucial half century. India were put under severe pressure early on as Lee’s brutal attack propelled South Africa to 71/1 in 10 overs. The conditions were ideal for batting and Lee made the most of it, hitting as much as 10 fours and seven sixes.
She missed out on a well deserved hundred after being trapped in front of the stumps by Harmanpreet (2/18), leaving South Africa at 134/3 in the 21st over. From there on, the Indian bowlers were able to contain the opposition batters by taking wickets at regular intervals. Pacer Shikha Pandey, brought back into the side in place of Mansi Joshi, was the pick of the bowlers taking 3/40 from nine overs.
India’s most prolific spinner in the tournament, Ekta Bisht, proved expensive leaking 68 runs in nine overs though she did take a couple of wickets. She went for as much as 20 runs in the 46th over when Niekerk and Chloe Tyron whacked her for three sixes.
India could have sealed their semifinal berth with a win but now have their task cut out in the remaining league matches against holders Australia and New Zealand.