India 147 for 6 (Amanjot 41*, Bhatia 35, Deepti 33, Mlaba 2-15) beat South Africa 120 for 9 (Luus 29, Tryon 26, Vaidya 2-19) by 27 runs
Then the Indian spinners used the dry, slow surface in hot and humid conditions to their advantage to stifle South Africa and seal a 27-run win.
This was after India captain Harmanpreet Kaur was forced to miss the contest because of illness and the tourists’ XI didn’t feature the returning Shikha Pandey, Renuka Singh and Pooja Vastrakar, the reason for which couldn’t be ascertained.
South Africa seize early control
After being inserted in on a slowish surface, India openers Smriti Mandhana, standing in for the unwell Harmanpreet, and Yastika Bhatia regularly used their feet in order to force the pace. Mandhana managed to hit Ayabonga Khaka through square leg after charging down but fell a ball later after looking to hit over mid-off.
Using her bowlers in a one-over spell in the first four overs, Sune Luus ensured that South Africa kept the pressure on India. At the end of the powerplay, India were 29 for 1. Harleen Deol then welcomed left-arm spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba with a slice through backward point and short third after dancing down the wicket. But she was run-out next ball after a slight hesitation on the second run. Jemimah Rodrigues was then adjudged caught behind down leg, after missing a pull shot off Mlaba.
Bhatia shows her wares
Perhaps if Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh – both part of the inaugural Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup – would have been available, Bhatia might not have found a spot in the XI. But she made the most of her chance.
After she was given a life when she was on two, Bhatia managed to get the measure of the surface. She moved around in the crease to put the bowlers off their lengths. She first greeted seamer Nadine de Klerk with a middled heave through midwicket. Then, she moved across her stumps and scooped a full ball from Masabata Klaas over fine leg for a massive six. On the next ball, she picked up the short ball and pummeled the pull through square leg.
Deepti, Amanjot revive India
Once again in a dire situation, India had to look up to Deepti to bail them out of a sticky situation. In the company of seam-bowling allrounder Amanjot, she got about with the resurrection act. Luus was happy to have the slower bowlers, including herself, on in a bid to apply the squeeze.
But Deepti broke the shackles by lofting Tucker over long-on for a six. Amanjot then came into her own, cracking successive fours through covers off Khaka. She then got two more fours off consecutive deliveries off Marizanne Kapp – the second via a fortunate top edge over the wicketkeeper. Courtesy her three fours, India managed to take 15 off the 19th over.
South Africa in a spin
India had as many as six spin-bowling options in the XI and South Africa’s chase was always going to be tricky. Deepti only asserted it after having Laura Wolvaardt caught and bowled before having the other opener, Anneke Bosch, on a string. Rajeshwari Gayakwad then was the beneficiary, striking on her second ball to have her dismissed.
Only Kapp, playing a T20I after 16 months, looked the part with the bat. She bookended left-arm seamer Anjali Sarvani’s second over with a four and a six but was pinned down by spin. She managed to hold fort with Luus for 35 balls during their 27-run partnership but couldn’t resist when legspinner Vaidya tossed one up in her zone, holing out to long-off.
Luus soon fell after a mix-up with Chloe Tryon, who really was South Africa’s last hope. She struck a couple of fours each off Deepti and Vaidya to keep the hosts’ faint hopes alive. But when Radha Yadav trapped her lbw, the writing was truly on the wall.
S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo