Dane Van Niekerk, Lizelle Lee snap India’s winning streak

Dane Van Niekerk
Dane van Niekerk led from the front, both with bat and ball, as South Africa snapped India’s four-match unbeaten streak in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 with a massive 115-run win at Leicester on Saturday (July 8), to stay in the hunt for a semis spot.

If it was Lizelle Lee’s assault upfront that gave South Africa momentum after being asked to bat first, van Niekerk’s double blow in an over put them firmly in control of the contest where India needed to pull off their highest successful chase to go back on top of the points table. As it turned it, the Proteas once again proved to be the banana peel for Mithali Raj & Co., who could muster only 158 in reply after the top guns flopped collectively.

Smriti Mandhana got India going with a beautiful backfoot punch for a boundary off Marizanne Kapp but the World No. 1 bowler had her revenge off the very next ball as the Indian opener picked out the only fielder in the deep, Ismail, to record her third failure on the trot. Deepti Sharma and Punam Raut slowly put things together in the 43-run partnership, that lasted little over 10 overs, until the pressure of a constantly mounting asking-rate caught up with the latter. Raut, rather uncharacteristically, tried to break free and instead had her middle stump floored by a straight delivery from Ayabonga Khaka on 22.

All hell broke loose in the next over, however, with van Niekerk triggering panic in the Indian camp. The South African skipper first handed her counterpart Raj her first-ever golden duck in ODIs and then trapped Harmanpreet Kaur plumb in front with a delivery that didn’t turn much to deceive the vice-captain. Down to 49 for 4, it was only a matter of time before India’s off-colour lower order gave in.

Deepti held one end together but her efforts did get much support from the other end. Veda Krishnamurthy, who had been rested for India’s initial two wins, failed to make it count, becoming Khaka’s second victim of the day. The comeback girl, Shikha Pandey, was in and out in a jiffy. By the end of the 20th over, India were left staring down the barrel with 65 for 7 on the board with Sushma Verma failing to regain her crease after being refused a non-existent single by Deepti.

Deepti did frustrate South Africa by adding 53 for the eight wicket stand – India’s best in the day – with Jhulan Goswami, who scored an unbeaten 43 in the losing cause. The left-handed bat raised her fifty when the team’s collective score was only 90, at the end of the 28th over. However, the required rate was well above eight and the two best knocks of the day only helped India avoid a steep dip in net run rate.

Earlier in the day, it was all about some clean hitting and lofty sixes as South Africa marched on to 273 for 9.

The tiny little advantage overcast conditions had to offer to the pace bowlers prompted Raj to field after winning the toss – a decision they regretted soon after. Pandey, dropped for a couple of games for not producing wickets up front, made a strong comeback by uprooting Laura Wolvaardt’s offstump with a perfect inswinger. But barring the early breakthrough, the first half of South Africa’s innings was all Lee show.

Trisha Chetty was reduced to a mere spectator at the other end as Lee brought forward her devastating form and hammered a brisk 65-ball 92, studded with seven towering sixes and ten boundaries. The 25-year-old spared no bowler in her slam-bang knock as she moved on to 48 off just 33 balls, by the end of powerplay. The introduction of slower bowlers – Deepti and Poonam Yadav – briefly halted the momentum as she consumed 11 more deliveries to bring up the fifty, but once the landmark was crossed, Lee went on the offensive yet again. For a better part of her innings, in fact, Lee had more sixes against her name than boundaries.

Barring Poonam Yadav’s opening spell of 4-0-14-0, neither bowler had any answers for Lee’s exploits. Raj eventually resorted to Harmanpreet who offered a few freebies but also got rid of the big fish. Batting on 92, Lee looked to target the midwicket region when she missed her shot and ball went on to ping her bang in front of the sticks.

But even as the boundaries dried up post the key wicket, Mignon du Preez and Kapp kept converting singles into twos and threes, which kept the scoreboard ticking at a healthy pace. All until the 28th over, where Poonam returned to send back free-flowing du Preez for 22 off 29. From the other end, Harmanpreet took out Kapp with another deceptive delivery that refused to turn as South Africa briefly seemed to be losing plot after slipping to 162 for 5.

The 15-over period, which also included their only maiden in the day, was quite productive for India. South Africa managed only 53 runs for the loss of Sune Luus. Having said, it did allow van Niekerk to get her eye in for a late surge. The skipper built on an authoritative start provided by Lee’s blitzkrieg by notching up her fifth ODI fifty. Last seven overs saw them add 58 runs to their total, courtesy the skipper and Chloe Tryon’s entertaining cameos, that set India a target well past their highest successful chase.

Brief scores: South Africa 273/9 in 50 overs (Lizelle Lee 92, Dane van Niekerk 57; Shikha Pandey 3-40, Harmanpreet Kaur 2-18) beat India 158 in 46 overs (Deepti Sharma 60, Jhulan Goswami 43*; Dane van Niekerk 4-22, Ayabonga Khaka 2-33) by 115 runs.



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