Lizelle Lee scored a spectacular century to guide South Africa to a win in the third ODI against India at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on Friday (12 March 2021). At the end, South Africa needed 26 runs to win from 21 deliveries when the players went off the field due to rain. And with no play possible after that, the batting side secured a six-run win based on the DLS method.
SOLID START TO SOUTH AFRICA’S INNINGS
Chasing a target of 249, South Africa's openers Lee and Laura Wolvaardt got their team off to a solid start, putting on a first wicket partnership of 41. But just as they seemed to be gaining the upper hand, Wolvaardt was bowled by a brilliant delivery by Deepti Sharma. The India all-rounder invited the South Africa captain to play a cover drive and got the ball to spin in sharply to beat the bat and hit the stumps.
Lee set a solid platform for South Africa’s run-chase by batting positively and brought up her second 50+ score of the series. At the other end, Lara Goodall played a good supporting role, as Lee and she put on a 40-run stand for the second wicket.
At the start of the 22nd over, with the spinners having not got a breakthrough for a while, India captain Mithali Raj decided to bring experienced pacer Jhulan Goswami back into the bowling attack. That proved to be a masterful decision as Goswani, who was very economical in her first spell, got the wicket of Goodall for 16.
LEE INSPIRES SOUTH AFRICA TO VICTORY
Lee kept going and brought up a magnificent century, getting to the landmark in just 97 deliveries. From the word go, the South Africa opener looked to be aggressive and, on the back of her innings, South Africa took control of the game. Lee had a lucky reprieve while batting on 79 when she was dropped by Goswami off the bowling of Poonam Yadav, who was unfortunate to have not secured her first wicket in the series.
While the match was in the balance earlier, a 97-run partnership between Lee and Mignon du Preez saw the Proteas edge in front. Du Preez struggled to get going at the start of her innings, but she too got into the groove soon, scoring 37 from 46 deliveries. But just when the partnership seemed to be taking the game away from India, du Preez was dismissed by Rajeshwari Gayakwad. That was just the opening the hosts needed and, an over later, Marizanne Kapp was sent back to the pavilion by Goswami for a duck.
While South Africa found themselves in a precarious situation when those two wickets fell in quick succession during the Batting Powerplay, Lee and Anne Bosch ensured that they remained on track for victory with an unbeaten 45-run partnership before the rain forced play to stop. The former was superb, scoring 132 not out from 131 deliveries, her best score in international cricket till date.
RAUT PROPELS INDIA TO 248
Earlier, leading South Africa in her first ODI as captain with Sune Luus out due to illness, Wolvaardt unsurprisingly opted to bowl first after winning the toss.
After being dismissed for low scores in the first two matches of the series, Jemimah Rodrigues would have been hoping for a significant score in this game. But it wasn't to be as she had to head back to the pavilion without opening her account. For the second time in two innings, she was dismissed by Shabnim Ismail, this time caught behind in the first over of the match.
It took India until the ninth delivery to get their first runs on the board and the duo of Smriti Mandhana and Punam Raut, who were excellent in the last game, steadied India's innings, bringing up a half century stand for the second wicket. But just as it seemed like Mandhana and Raut were putting India in a strong position in the match, the former was dismissed by Tumi Sekhukhune for 25. Considering that Mandhana averages close to 70 in ODIs since the start of 2018, this was a crucial wicket for the visitors.
Raut, on the other hand, carried on from where she left off in the second ODI and brought up her second successive fifty, reaching the milestone in 80 deliveries. Meanwhile, Mithali Raj was batting superbly and seemed to be in great touch, but she couldn't convert a start into a big score as she was dismissed by Anne Bosch for 36. As far as first ODI wickets go, it couldn't have gotten much better for Bosch.
During her innings, Mithali became just the second woman, after England's Charlotte Edwards, to reach 10,000 international runs. She has scored 663 runs in Tests, 6,974 in ODIs and 2,364 in T20Is.
Raut, meanwhile, kept the scoreboard ticking before she mistimed a lofted cover drive off the bowling of Marizanne Kapp. India's number three had to make her way back to the pavilion after scoring 77, with Bosch taking a top catch while running back.
One disappointment for India would have been that a few of their batters got starts but weren't able to kick on and score big. One such batter was Harmanpreet Kaur, who was dismissed for 36 while attempting a big shot, with Sekhukhune taking a stunning catch. It was Ismail with her second dismissal of the innings and she is now just one short of the 150-wicket mark in ODIs.
Deepti played a solid knock, with her unbeaten 36 taking India to 248/5. While the Proteas would have been discontent that they bowled 13 wides during the innings, they would have been pleased with their efforts during the death overs as they conceded only 60 runs in the last 12 overs. And they took that momentum into the second innings of the game and thereby have secured a 2-1 series lead.