Nail-biting finish at Chinnaswamy as India clinch series against SA

By BD Narayankar

Bengaluru, June 19 (UNI) In an exhilarating second ODI of the Women’s Bilateral Series at M Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Wednesday, India narrowly defeated South Africa by 6 runs, sealing the three-match ODI series with a superb all-round performance.

The match saw stellar centuries from South Africa’s Marizanne Kapp and Laura Wolvaardt, but it was India’s resilient bowling in the death overs that clinched the victory.

India, led by exceptional performances from Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur, posted a formidable total of 325/3. Mandhana’s elegant 136 off 120 balls was a masterclass in timing and placement. She dominated the South African bowlers with her impeccable footwork and fluent stroke play, reaching her century with a delicate boundary through the covers. Mandhana’s innings included 15 boundaries and 2 sixes, providing a solid foundation for India’s innings.

Harmanpreet Kaur, coming in at number four, played a contrasting yet equally impactful innings. Her explosive 103 not out off 88 balls was marked by sheer power and aggression. Kaur accelerated the scoring rate with a flurry of boundaries and three massive sixes, particularly targeting the spinners. Her unbeaten century ensured India capitalized on the strong start provided by Mandhana, culminating in a formidable total.

Their 171-run partnership off 136 balls was a blend of grace and aggression, reflecting their complementary batting styles. This stand was crucial in setting a daunting target for the visitors.

Young sensation Shafali Verma added a quick 20 off 38 balls, showing glimpses of her aggressive intent but falling to a sharp bouncer. Richa Ghosh’s aggressive cameo of 25* off 13 balls in the final overs provided the finishing touch. Ghosh’s fearless batting, including a towering six over mid-wicket, pushed India’s total to a challenging 325/3.

South Africa’s chase started with flair, but early breakthroughs by Indian bowlers added pressure. Arundhati Reddy’s maiden ODI wicket, dismissing Tazmin Brits (5) with a well-directed outswinger, and Deepti Sharma’s crucial wicket of Anneke Bosch (18 off 23), helped India maintain control initially.

Kapp and Wolvaardt then staged a valiant fightback, each scoring centuries that brought South Africa tantalisingly close to victory. Kapp’s 114 off 94 balls was a display of resilience and power. She countered the Indian bowling attack with a series of well-timed boundaries and powerful strokes, keeping the scoreboard ticking.

Wolvaardt’s 108* off 112 balls was the epitome of patience and strategic play. Anchoring the innings, Wolvaardt rotated the strike efficiently and found gaps with ease. Her composed and calculated approach ensured South Africa remained in the hunt, even as wickets fell around her.

Their 150-run partnership kept the Proteas in the hunt, showcasing their determination and skill. However, India’s bowlers held their nerve in the final overs. With South Africa needing 23 runs off the final 12 balls, the tension was palpable. Pooja Vastrakar’s crucial breakthroughs in the 49th over, dismissing Nadine de Klerk (28 off 22, 2x4s, 1×6) and Nondumiso Shangase (0), tilted the balance back in India’s favor.

Despite Wolvaardt’s determined efforts, she was left stranded as Vastrakar successfully defended 11 runs in the last over. India’s fielding under pressure was commendable, with key stops and catches maintaining the pressure on the South African batters.

India clinched the series and will aim to carry this momentum into the final match. South Africa, despite the loss, showed immense grit and will look to bounce back strongly.

The cricketing world witnessed a classic encounter that highlighted the unpredictable and thrilling nature of the sport, setting the stage for an exciting finale.

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