South Africa Women 273 for 9 (Lee 92, van Niekerk 57, Pandey 3-40) beat India Women 158 (Deepti 60, van Niekerk 4-22)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Dane van Niekerk returned to the venue of her history-making spell against West Indies to produce a performance par excellence, with bat and ball, to demolish India in Leicester.
On a dry and mostly placid track, the South Africa captain used flight, drift and, for large parts, lack of turn, to finish with 4 for 22 off her 10 overs. That spell was the full stop to India’s ambitions of pulling off the third highest chase in Women’s ODIs. In the end, they lost their first match of this World Cup, falling short of the target of 274 by 115 runs, and might well rue their decision to bowl at the toss.
Mithali Raj, who had made that call, came into the match needing 34 runs to becoming the highest run-scorer in Women’s ODIs. She arrived at the crease with India on 47 for 2 but, after misjudging a straighter one, was bowled for her first ever golden duck. So it was that Van Niekerk won the battle of the captains. Her legspin sparked a collapse as India slipped to 65 for 7 and best of all, she had ensured South Africa stayed in the running for a semi-final spot.
Lizelle Lee’s innings played a large part in things turning out the way they did. She smacked a brutal 92 off 65 balls with seven sixes – the third time she has struck as many – to lead South Africa to an imposing total. It was well beyond anything India had chased down in ODIs.
There were ominous signs right from the start, when Marizanne Kapp, the No. 1-ranked ODI bowler, struck with her second ball. Smiriti Mandhana, having flayed her first ball for four through point, was caught at deep square leg.
Poonam Raut and Deepti Sharma went about rebuilding the innings with a 43-run second-wicket stand but that period of stability – the only one for India – ended when Ayabonga Khaka produced a slower ball to deceive the advancing Raut and bowl her.
Mithali was handed her first duck in five years by van Niekerk, who then trapped Harmanpreet Kaur lbw in the same over. A ripper from Khaka – pitching on a good length and nipping away off the seam – took care of Veda Krishnamurthy and her stumps. Shikha Pandey ran past a legbreak from van Niekerk and three overs later, Sushma Verma ran herself out as India went into freefall at 65 for 7.
If not for Deepti’s composed 60 off 111 balls – which exemplified how good the pitch was to bat on – India might have struggled to even cross 100.
Mithali later explained that she was persuaded to bowl at Grace Road by people informing her that it was a chasing ground, and she also wanted to follow the template from the Women’s World Cup qualifier final when India beat South Africa by hunting down a target of 245.
But those plans did not account Lee’s belligerence. She was separated from her opening partner Laura Wolvaardt in the second over but that seemed to only spur her on. She took the wicket-taker Pandey for two fours and a six to double South Africa’s score – 16 at the time – in a single over.
The biggest way in which Lee upset India’s bowling was by taking on Ekta Bisht. The left-arm spinner has been a vital source of wickets during the middle overs, but here, she was smashed for 25 runs in 11 balls by the South African opener, and finished with figures of 9-0-68-2.
Lee’s knock was extremely well constructed. Her first fifty runs came off 44 balls, the next 42 came off only 21. Wide deliveries were slapped with force through extra cover. Taking pace off the ball didn’t work for she simply came down the track and exploited the short straight boundaries. Long-hops were duly dispatched over cow corner and by the end, Lee found herself with seven sixes in the innings, equaling her own South African record in ODIs.
India seemed like they had gained respite when Harmanpreet had Lee lbw in her first over, and with it being the 21st of the innings, there was still time for a salvage operation. But van Niekerk wouldn’t allow for it. Having come in during the 28th over, she held steady until the 44th, when she survived a run-out as Goswami couldn’t collect the throw at the bowler’s end. That reprieve got her going as she went from 31 off 49 balls to 57 off 66, pushing her tally to seven fours and a six.