Akshay Gopalakrishnan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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South Africa women 134 for 5 (Luus 41, Tryon 34, Vastrakar 2-21) beat India women 133 (Harmanpreet 48, Mandhana 37, Ismail 5-30) by five wickets
India paid for an insipid lower-order collapse with their first defeat in the T20 series, as South Africa stayed alive with a five-wicket victory at the Wanderers, with two matches left in the series. Shabnim Ismail, South Africa's formidable new-ball bowler and among the world's fastest, rocked India with her maiden five-for in T20Is. She made her presence felt all over the Indian line-up: she ended a burgeoning innings from the India captain Harmanpreet Kaur, slowed down scoring with wickets in the middle overs, and then wiped out the lower order, as India lost their last five wickets for only nine runs.
India controlled the early exchanges of the chase and even sent back South Africa's destructive opener Lizelle Lee in the third over. But Dane van Niekerk turned the tide in her team's favour with a stroke-filled 26, and South Africa never fell behind after that.
The bad signs for India emerged early enough. Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana's belligerence at the top of the order had played a major part in each of India's two wins before Sunday. This time their association lasted five balls. Lured into an expansive drive by Marizanne Kapp, Raj swung and edged to the wicketkeeper, as a sequence of four successive fifties ended with a five-ball duck.
Mandhana, however, capitalised on her good form and raced away to offset the early loss. Ismail got her lengths wrong upon introduction, and a hat-trick of fours off her got Mandhana going. It prompted Ismail to be taken off after the solitary over that went for 17 runs, but her replacement Moseline Daniels hardly fared better, going for as many fours. South Africa's bowlers sent down an assortment of fuller deliveries that allowed both batsmen to pierce the field on either side. When they dragged their pace back, Harmanpreet and Mandhana stepped down the track to make sure it didn't get in the way of their timing, and laid a solid platform in the Powerplay.
As has almost become a norm in South Africa this season, the introduction of the legspinner immediately impeded that charge. Having misread van Niekerk's trajectory, Mandhana pulled her into the hands of deep midwicket, with the short ball not quite coming on. Harmanpreet continued to power through at the other end, sinking South Africa in a stream of boundaries. Offspinner Raisibe Ntozakhe received the majority of Harmanpreet's onslaught, throwing her off her lengths by liberally stepping down, and picking her apart for a six and three fours in the 11th over.
Ismail was brought back in the next over, and seeing Harmanpreet opening up, she lured her forward with an awayswinger well outside the off stump. Sure enough, she found a thick outside edge that was pouched by the keeper. Jemimah Rodrigues, the teenage sensation, fell two deliveries later, when Ismail landed a similar delivery and Rodrigues also drove away from her body, to hand a simple catch to cover. In her next over, Ismail had Anuja Patil, who was caught brilliantly by Sune Luus running backwards to her right from mid-on, and India had lost three wickets for 15 runs.
Veda Krishnamurthy tantalised with a boundary-heavy 23, and it seemed like India may put up a competitive total. But Krishnamurthy fell to her own undoing, stepping down to a dipping fuller one that snuck underneath and flattened her stumps. That dismissal triggered the collapse. Ismail had her career-best figures when a short ball zipped off the surface and was gloved by Poonam Yadav to the keeper. When Pooja Vastrakar top-edged another one to mid-off, 13 unused deliveries remained, and there was little doubt that India were well under par.
India's new-ball bowlers made use of sharp swing to keep South Africa in check for the early part. But van Niekerk neutralised their effectiveness by boldly stepping down and minimising the movement. After 16 for 1 in four overs, three fours off Vastrakar in the fifth over signaled a shift in momentum, and it was a scuffle for India thereafter. The South African captain charged to left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad's generous flight and connected with thin air, despite having pinched four fours off the last eight balls she had faced.
Luus took over the scoring from there and kept South Africa on course along with Mignon du Preez. When du Preez was deceived by Poonam's flight and holed out down the ground, South Africa were 84 for 3, and needed 50 from six overs. But Chloe Tryon countered with a boundary barrage that helped her score 34 of 15 balls.
In the final assessment, Harmanpreet may also rue her decision to turn to offspinner Anuja Patil, who had conceded 31 runs in three overs, for the 19th over. With 13 needed off 12, Tryon blasted a four and six off the first two balls to shut India out.