The series might have already been lost, but India will be thrilled with how they performed in the third T20 International (T20I) against South Africa at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on Tuesday (23 March 2021). The hosts were dominant from start to finish and eventually won the contest by nine wickets, with a plethora of deliveries to spare.
Interestingly, every match of this tour – five One-Day Internationals (ODI) and three T20Is – saw the team winning the toss, opting to field and going on to win the game. After ending up on the wrong side of the coin flip in the previous two T20Is, Smriti Mandhana must have been so relieved to have won the toss on this occasion. Unsurprisingly, she put South Africa into bat and, for the next 31 overs, India were absolutely brilliant.
GAYAKWAD’S SENSATIONAL OPENING SPELL
It was Rajeshwari Gayakwad who got India off to a sensational start. Not only did the left-arm spinner dismiss both openers – Anneke Bosch and Lizelle Lee – she was incredibly hard to score against during the Powerplay as well. In the three overs she bowled when the fielding restrictions were in place, she conceded just two runs and this ensured that South Africa were on the back-foot from the word go.
Bosch was the first batter to go, bowled by Gayakwad, for a duck. Then, in the final over of the Powerplay, Gayakwad bowled the in-form Lee with a magnificent arm ball. Lee was, in fact, fortunate to have not been dismissed earlier as she was dropped by Deepti Sharma off the bowling of Arundhati Reddy.
Rajeshwari Gayakwad the pick of the Indian bowlers across both formats 👏🏽👏🏽 #IndvsSA— Lisa Sthalekar (@sthalekar93) March 23, 2021
South Africa managed just 15 runs in the Powerplay and they weren’t really able to get a move on later as well, with some top bowling by India keeping the pressure on the visitors' batters.
INDIAN BOWLERS KEEP THE PRESSURE ON
Radha Yadav's consistency has been truly remarkable in T20Is and, for the 26th consecutive match in the format at the international level, she accounted for a dismissal. She took the big wicket of Laura Wolvaardt, who was dismissed for a duck, with Deepti taking a superb diving catch. With India's fielding being subpar in this series, and Deepti herself dropping a catch earlier in this match, that piece of fielding would have come as a huge boost for the home team.
Faye Tunnicliffe, playing in her first match of the tour, struggled to get going and was eventually bowled for 18 by Simran Bahadur, resulting in the Indian all-rounder's first wicket in international cricket. Gayakwad then returned to the bowling attack and secured her third bowled dismissal of the innings. It was Nadine de Klerk who was dismissed for 9. Gayakwad finished her four-over spell with career-best T20I bowling figures of 3/9.
On the back of a fantastic bowling performance by India, South Africa were restricted to just 112/7 in their 20 overs, with only two of their batters – captain Sune Luus and Lara Goodall – crossing the 20-run mark. There were as many as five batters who were bowled, with Luus falling to Deepti for 28 the last of such dismissals. Goodall and Sinalo Jafta (before she was dismissed by Arundhati) made useful contributions towards the end of the innings, which guided the visitors past the 110-run mark. But India were definitely the happier team at the innings break.
SHAFALI, MANDHANA GUIDE INDIA TO VICTORY IN 11 OVERS
In pursuit of 113, Shafali Verma showed her intentions with a four and a six off the first two deliveries she faced and went on to play an innings to remember. She started off in fifth gear and didn’t bother to slow down, taking the attack to the South African bowling relentlessly. Earlier in the day, Shafali had reclaimed the No.1 spot in the ICC T20I batters’ rankings and there was enough evidence in this game to see why she’s at the zenith.
on the day she regained her top spot in the rankings, shafali verma is showing just why that is! #INDWvSAW— Gaurav Kalra (@gauravkalra75) March 23, 2021
She brought up her half-century in only 26 deliveries, the third-fastest for India in women's T20Is. She was eventually dismissed for 60 off 30 deliveries by Nondumiso Shangase, but by then, the result was a mere formality. She was well supported by captain Mandhana, with the duo putting together a first-wicket partnership of 96 in just 51 deliveries.
While Mandhana began cautiously (well, anything would have seemed circumspect with Shafali batting at the other end), she too upped the ante, hitting three consecutive boundaries against Shabnim Ismail in the fifth over of the innings. Ismail, who is South Africa's premier pacer and was excellent during this tour, conceded 37 runs from her two overs during the Powerplay.
Mandhana would hit three successive fours once again in the 11th over, off the bowling of de Klerk, to complete the run-chase with 54 deliveries still remaining. The Indian skipper was unbeaten on 48 off 28 deliveries at the end.
While India will look to take confidence from this result into future series, South Africa will be mighty pleased with how the tour went for them, having won both the ODI and the T20I series.
(Image Courtesy – BCCI)