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Women’s World Cup: Du Preez stars as South Africa end India’s hopes with knockout punch

Christchurch : Veteran batter Mignon du Preez starred with an unbeaten 50 as South Africa knocked India out of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup with a three wickets win in a thrilling league match at Hagley Oval. It was an apt ending for the league stage of the tournament, dishing out many nail-biting matches.But this was not the ending that last edition’s finalists India were expecting.After sizzling half-centuries from Smriti Mandhana, Mithali Raj and Shafali Verma took India to a respectable 274/7, South Africa were cruising with Laura Wolvaardt top-scoring with 80 and sharing a 125-run stand with Lara Goodall (49). But a seemingly straightforward chase turned on its head with India making inroads into the South Africa batting order.It required the calmness of du Preez to take South Africa home on the final ball of the chase. Another big moment was when South Africa needed three runs off two balls and du Preez holed out to long-on off Deepti Sharma. But replays showed Deepti overstepping by the tiniest of margins, turning the dismissal into a front-foot no-ball.

Eventually, du Preez’s whip through mid-wicket on the final ball of the innings broke the hearts of Indian players and fans as South Africa aced their highest successful chase in ODIs.It also meant that the West Indies made it to the last four and will face Australia in the first semi-final while South Africa will take on defending champions England.India elected to bat first and stepped on the field without veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami, who was ruled out of the match due to a side strain. Verma got off the mark with a decent drive through extra cover off Shabnim Ismail while Mandhana got her first boundary with a beautifully-timed drive through extra cover off Kapp. Verma tore into Ismail in the third over, smashing a hat-trick of fours through fine leg twice and backward point to take 17 runs off the over.Boundaries continued to pour for Verma as Ayabonga Khaka was dispatched through extra cover and mid-off. Verma’s aggression was the main reason behind India amassing 68 runs in power-play, their highest score in this phase of the tournament. The ten-over phase had ten boundaries, seven of which were hit by Verma while Mandhana slammed three.Post-power-play, Verma and Mandhana kept the scoreboard ticking till the former reached her maiden World Cup fifty in just 40 balls with a four thumped over mid-on off Masabata Klass.

But in the next over, South Africa broke the 91-run opening partnership as a huge miscommunication on the field resulted in Verma sacrificing her wicket. With Yastika Bhatia clean bowled by Chole Tryon for just two, South Africa looked on a comeback in the match.Mandhana, sedate till then, brought out her aerial shots while Mithali Raj took her time to settle down. With Raj creaming drives with ease, Mandhana reached her fifty in 69 balls but was out for 71 as Chloe Tryon dived full length to her right for a stunning catch at mid-off, bringing the 80-run partnership for the third wicket to an end.Mithali continued to make the most of the ‘gifts’ sent by South Africa bowlers while maintaining her strike rate in the vicinity of 70 and above. A full toss was swept away to fine-leg while anything short and overpitched wide was caressed through the off-side. But in an attempt to go big, Raj holed out to mid-off, giving Klass her second wicket of the match.Harmanpreet Kaur looked scratchy in her knock of 48 but got two crucial boundaries off Kapp in the 48th over as South Africa dragged some momentum in their favour. The Proteas made good use of bowling changes, short-pitched deliveries and variations in pace to concede just 51 runs in the last ten overs, bagging four scalps, with Ismail being the standout bowler in that phase.In pursuit of 275, Lizelle Lee was run out early via a direct hit from Harmanpreet.

But Wolvaardt led the recovery for South Africa by taking the attack to India. With her eye-catchy, well-timed cover drives, Wolvaardt was in control of her game and supporting her enormously was Goodall, who struck boundaries off Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Pooja Vastrakar.Wolvaardt got her fifty with a cut through backward point. South Africa were helped by India not being able to maintain a consistent line and length apart from the misfields. The duo kept the scoreboard ticking with strike rotation, keeping the required run-rate under check. India’s quest for a breakthrough finally came when Gayakwad enticed Goodall with a flighted delivery turning past her inner edge and was stumped for 49, ending the 125-run partnership.One brought two for India as Harmanpreet clean bowled Wolvaardt with a turning in delivery that hit the off-stump. From there, India tightened the screws on South Africa by drying the boundaries. Du Preez and captain Sune Luus stitched a stand of 37 runs for the fourth wicket. But Harmanpreet struck again, trapping Luus lbw with a full ball turning in and going past the flick to hit her on the knee roll. India took the DRS and replays showed the ball hitting the top of the leg-stump.

Marizanne Kapp broke the boundary-less run of 11 overs by leaning into a cover drive past mid-off. With 77 needed off the last ten overs, South Africa brought up their 200 and was followed by Kapp cutting Kaur through point. Kapp and du Preez rotated strike consistently against the spinners without taking any undue risk to keep the Proteas in chase.Mandhana dropped a simple chance of du Preez at long-on off Gayakwad. But two balls later, Harmanpreet fired an underarm throw from cover-point and Ghosh whipped the bails to catch a diving Kapp short of her crease.Du Preez hit back-to-back fours off Vastrakar on the last two balls of 46th over. It was followed by Chloe Tryon hitting Gayakwad for successive fours on the first two balls of 47th over. After a loft over long-off on a full toss, Gayakwad had the last laugh in taking out Tryon with a caught and bowled dismissal on the final ball of the over.Sharma and Gayakwad conceded 13 runs in 48th and 49th overs to bring the equation down to seven runs off the final over. Harmanpreet fired a throw from long-on and Deepti threw the ball to stumps, catching Trisha Chetty short of crease while going for the second run while du Preez reached her fifty via the first run.In a bid for the glory shot, du Preez holed out to long-on off Deepti but the off-spinner had overstepped and from there, it was ecstasy for South Africa and West Indies while it was agony for India.
Brief scores: India 274/7 in 50 overs (Smriti Mandhana 71, Shafali Verma 53, Mithali Raj 68; Masabata Klass 2/38, Shabnim Ismail 2/42) lost to South Africa 275/7 in 50 overs (Laura Wolvaardt 80, Mignon du Preez 52 not out; Harmanpreet Kaur 2/42, Rajeshwari Gayakwad 2/61) by three wickets



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