South Africa Women 159 for 4 (Lee 70, Wolvaardt 53*) beat India Women 158 for 4 (Verma 47, Ghosh 44*) by six wickets
South Africa Women completed their third-highest successful chase to record their first T20I series win over India, with a thrilling last-ball win for a 2-0 series lead in Lucknow. The six-wicket margin belies how close this match was.
South Africa needed 43 runs off 30 balls when their best batter Lizelle Lee was dismissed, and then required 19 runs off 10 balls when their most experienced player Mignon du Preez was out. They needed nine runs off the last over, six off the last two balls and one off the final delivery. Laura Wolvaardt took them home and recorded her third T20I half-century in the process.
India posted their 18th total of 150 or more and would have been disappointed with their inability to defend it, given that they have done so on nine out of 12 occasions before this. Their ground fielding let them down again, with three dropped catches and several mis-fields.
Arundhati Reddy was tasked with bowling the final over, with nine runs to defend. Her first ball was a low full toss which Nadine de Klerk hit through midwicket for a single. Her second was a wide yorker that Wolvaardt missed. Her third was another full toss, but high, and was hit to deep mid-wicket for a single. Then she bowled a full delivery that de Klerk lofted to long-on, but it fell well-short of the fielder. So far, so good. South Africa had scored three runs off the first four balls and needed six off three. Then, Reddy bowled a more-than-waist high full toss that Wolvaardt pulled to mid-wicket for two. It was called a no-ball and South Africa only needed three off two. Wolfvaardt found two runs off the fifth ball and swung wildly at the final one, which she inside-edged towards short fine leg for the run that won the series.
This trip can barely get any better for Lee, who was the leading run-scorer in the ODIs and has translated that form into the shortest format, where there were some concerns about her recent performances. Lee had not scored more than 25 runs in a T20 against a team ranked in the top 10 since South Africa's last trip to India in 2019. Between then and before today's match, Lee had batted in 11 T20 innings, and before this one had scored 217 runs at an average of 19.27. Her 70 in this match has lifted that to 23.92 from her last 12 innings and 25.28 overall.
She showed her intent from the second ball when she hit Reddy through the covers for four and followed that up with well-placed sweep shots against Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Deepti Sharma. But it was not just the legside that Lee favoured. A key feature of her batting in Lucknow has been the way she has punctured the offside too. She brought up fifty off 34 balls and then freed the arms to add 20 more runs off the next 11 balls.
Some moments of magic but three missed opportunities
Lee's innings was nit without its chances. She was on 30 when she top-edged a sweep off Radha Yadav and Richa Ghosh, running in from deep square let the chance slip through her hands. Ghosh put Lee down again, on 60, when she drove Gayakward in the air to cover and although it required a jump to get to, Ghosh managed to get to the ball but could not hold on. Gayakwad could not be too upset. She put down a catch of her own bowling when Wolvaardt, on 2, pushed a ball back to her as Gayakwad crouched down, but could not wrap her fingers around it.
In-between all that, India had two pieces of fielding they will be proud of. In the 10th over, Lee drove Harleen Deol to long-on, where Jemima Rodrigues put in a sliding stop before passing the ball to Deepti Sharma while Lee and Luus tried to complete a second run. Deepti's direct hit at the non-striker's end caught Luus short of her ground and ended a 58-run second wicket stand between Lee and Luus. And then in the 16th over, Yadav took a good catch off her own bowling to dismiss Lee, who mishit an attempted slog high into the air. Yadav pedalled back, took the catch reverse-cupped and tumbled onto her back as she held on with one hand. This is the 25th successive innings in which Yadav has taken a wicket, and it was also her 50th wicket in T20Is.
The future of India's batting was on display at the top and tail of their innings through 17-year-olds, Shafali Verma and Ghosh. Verma set the hosts up with a fearless display against the short ball, in particular, and took on Shabnim Ismail, hitting her second over for 12 runs. The shot of Verma's innings was off de Klerk, who erred in length and pitched it up. Verma stepped forward to the fifth delivery of de Klerk's first over, hit through the line and sent it over long-off for six. Ghosh arrived at the crease after India had lost two wickets for 7 runs and their scoring rate was starting to stutter and she got them going by hitting three boundaries off Luus. She also wasn't afraid of Ismail and sent the third-last ball of the innings over mid-off for four. Ghosh would have been eyeing a first international half-century off the last two deliveries but missed a pull and was beaten by a slower ball to end on a career-best 44*.
Anneke Bosch has had a fabulous tour so far but would not have been happy with the way things went for her in this match. Her first call to action came when Verma, on 26, top-edged Nonkululekho Mlaba and Bosch, running in from long-off spilled the chance, She was called to bowl the next over and her first two deliveries were short and both were sent to the boundary by Deol. Though Bosch got her own back when Deol holed out to long-on, her three overs cost 26 runs and she couldn't make up for that with the bat. She was bowled when she missed a sweep off Gayakwad in the second over.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent