During the final match of the One-Day International (ODI) series, Aneeke Bosch made her first ODI fifty, and three days later, she brought up her maiden T20 International (T20I) half-century to guide South Africa to an eight-wicket win against India. She also took two crucial wickets earlier in the game and was unsurprisingly named the Player of the Match as the Proteas took a 1-0 lead in the three-match T20I series at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on Saturday (20 March 2021).
ISMAIL, BOSCH RESTRICT INDIA TO 130
The luck of the coin flip continued to be with South Africa as they won the toss and opted to bowl first.
While Smriti Mandhana got India off to a quick start, hitting two successive boundaries off Nonkululeko Mlaba in the first over of the innings, her stay in the middle didn't last for long. Shabnim Ismail, who was excellent in the ODI series, dismissed the stand-in Indian skipper for 11 with Bosch taking a superb diving catch at mid-off.
After the early dismissal of Mandhana, Shafali Verma and Harleen Deol did well to give India a solid platform with a 45-run partnership for the second wicket. But while the duo played some attacking shots, the scoring rate at the time was a bit of a concern for the hosts. And in an attempt to up the ante, Shafali was stumped off the bowling of Mlaba for 23.
Harleen, who was batting at number three for the first time in her young T20I career, played a sublime innings and brought up her maiden international fifty. After the notable partnership with Shafali earlier, she was well supported by Jemimah Rodrigues. The duo put on a 60-run stand for the third wicket, and at the time, India looked like they would get close to a total of 150.
While she began cautiously, Harleen picked up the pace soon enough and hit six boundaries during her knock of 52 from 47 deliveries. She did have her moment of fortune though as she hadn't grounded her bat when Laura Wolvaardt had hit the stumps at the striker's end during the 12th over. But the on-field umpire did not refer the decision.
Bosch then turned the match in her team's favour, with the wickets of both set batters in the 18th over. Both Harleen and Rodrigues were dismissed in similar fashion – while attempting a big shot over the long-on boundary but only ended up getting caught by Ismail. Rodrigues scored 30 from 27 deliveries, and after a poor ODI series, this knock should give her confidence.
Richa Ghosh and Deepti Sharma struggled to find the boundary thereafter and a brilliant final over from Ismail saw the visitors restrict India to 130/6. Ismail was brilliant, taking three wickets and conceding just 14 runs in her four overs.
India managed only 26 runs in the last five overs of their innings, losing as many as four wickets during that period.
BOSCH, LUUS PARTNERSHIP INSPIRES SOUTH AFRICA TO WIN
Considering the form Lizelle Lee was in during the 50-over series, India would have wanted to get her wicket as soon as possible. They had a huge opportunity to achieve that in the first over when Arundhati Reddy induced a false shot from Lee, but confusion between Deepti and Mandhana saw a catch slip away.
Reddy, though, didn’t let the disappointment of that missed chance get the better of her and got the wicket India craved for soon after, dismissing Lee for 8. The right-arm pacer was excellent for most of her three overs during the Powerplay, but Luus took the attack to her, with a six and a four towards the end of her spell which gave the visitors the momentum they needed.
From thereon, Bosch and Luus put South Africa in complete control of the run-chase with a superb 90-run stand for the second wicket. Both batters paced their innings excellently – rotating the strike well and finding the boundaries when required.
While Harleen dismissing Luus for 43 gave India a glimmer of hope, South Africa were still largely in control and got home comfortably in the end. Bosch batted at a strike rate of 137.5 and hit as many as nine fours and one six during her unbeaten 66.
One aspect of India's game that they would be keen to improve on is their fielding. While they let a couple of catches get away, there were also a few misfields which proved to be costly in the end. On the other hand, South Africa were magnificent in the field earlier in the game and this definitely played a factor in the final result.
(Images Courtesy - BCCI)