The Indian women’s team faced their first loss against South Africa in their fifth match of the ICC Women’s World Cup. Chasing a well struck 273 from the South Africans, India could only manage a meager 158. South Africa’s captain Dane van Niekerk was adjudged as the Player-of-the-Match for her incredible all round performance. She scored 57 to help her team reach 273 and also claimed 4 Indian wickets including a golden duck of the Indian captain Mithali Raj.
The two main factors that resulted in the loss of the Indians could be said to be the innings of Lizelle Lee and the destructive off spin of the captain van Niekerk. Though South Africa lost a wicket in the second over of Wolvaardt, they were not shaken. Their second wicket stand accounted for 91 runs, of which Lee was the major contributor. In all, she hit a total of 7 sixes and 10 fours to bolster their run rate. Her innings was well paced as she scored her half century in 44 balls and the next 42 in 21 deliveries with a strike rate of 200. This was her second highest ODI score and her first half century against India. She missed out on the century after she was caught leg before wicket by Harmanpreet Kaur.
When Lee went back, India was in a high and dry position having already given away 134 runs in 20.4 overs. But they still managed to pull back things a little bit after they sent 2 more batters back to the pavilion within 30 runs. Then Niekerk arrived on the crease and held on well on one end of the pitch. She had decent partnerships with Luus and Tryon to help South Africa reach 273. In all their innings comprised of 10 sixes which was proved to be something too much for the Indians.
In return, continuing her slump in the recent matches, Mandhana though looking good with a boundary but was sent packing after she was caught at deep square leg by Ismail in the second over. Punam built a steady partnership with Deepti at number 3 and took the Indian score to 47-1. She then missed a straight one on to the stumps resulting in her demise. The collapse of India was triggered from the same point. The brilliance of Niekerk got through 3 of the Indian middle order. She sent Mithali Raj for a golden duck, her first in an 18-year long career. Indians had a total of 3 ducks where the cumulative score of 5 middle order batswoman was 4 runs which are utterly disappointing for a team of India’s reputation. India went down from 47-1 to 65-7 in a span of 8 overs.
Then there arose a ray of hope for the Indians when Jhulan Goswami came on to the pitch to support Deepti Sharma. Sharma completed her fifty and went to score another 10 runs before she too was held victim to Niekerk’s magic. There were some consolation drives from Jhulan there on with Ekta Bisht on the other side. But that did not last long as India succumbed to 158 in 45.6 overs.
Indian captain, Mithali addressed a list of issues post-match as for what went wrong for them. She highlighted that the opening pair has not been consistent in their performance after the first match against England. Also, the decision of electing to bowl first might have turned against them as all the four wins the World Cup came batting first for India.
“Yes, it’s been happening since the West Indies game that the openers have not given us the start that we expect. The way they (the openers) opened the World Cup campaign for us against England, we were expecting maybe one or two off games but it can’t be four in a row. So that is a worrying factor because whether you bat first or chase, it’s important your top order gives you those runs on the board. I feel that when you are chasing 270 there’s always going to be pressure but you need the opening pair to give us a start so that the batters can take from thereon. Unfortunately, today we didn’t get that.” She said.
Speaking about her decision of fielding first she said, “We did ask few people here at the ground and they told us that the team that bats second has more percentage wins. And our matches with South Africa in the Qualifiers as well as in the Quadrangular Series, we probably have come close to 260, we lost one game though with 10 runs, that also was around 270 target. Considering these aspects, we chose to field first.”