Punam Raut (70 not out) extended her dream run in the quadrangular series with a fluent half-century against South Africa and steered India women to the title at Potchefstroom on Sunday.
After falling narrowly short of a record-breaking chase less than a week ago against the hosts, the Indians found form once again on the back of dismissing their opponents cheaply and chasing with minimum fuss.
Raut and Mithali Raj (62 not out) were hardly ruffled despite the loss of two early wickets, and got to the target on a canter, stitching a match-winning unbeaten 127-run stand as South Africa ran out of steam.
Raj’s decision to field first came as no surprise and she was instantly rewarded, with veteran Jhulan Goswami (3/22) and Ekta Bisht landing early blows. South Africa, though, fought back through a 73-run third-wicket stand between Sune Luus (55) and Mignon du Preez (30).
From being in a solid position to press for a formidable score, the South African middle-order once again wilted against India’s spin attack, almost in identical fashion during a round-robin game between the two sides.
Despite India missing their spin chief, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav (3/32) stepped up to land quick wickets. Goswami and Shikha Pandey cleaned up the lower order to dismiss the Proteas for a below-par 156. The last seven wickets fell for just 39 runs.
The run-chase was far from smooth sailing for the Indians, who lost rising star Deepti Sharma and Mona Meshram in quick succession. Sharma, in particular, endured a torrid time at the crease.
With skipper Raj holding fort at the other end, the in-form Raut was a class apart, piercing the field at regular intervals. South Africa’s supporting cast failed to build on the early pressure created by new-ball bowlers Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp. Raj upped the ante towards the end, hitting a flurry of boundaries to get her team over the line.
South Africa 156 in 40.2 overs (Sune Luus 55, Mignon du Preez 30; Jhulan Goswami 3/22, Poonam Yadav 3/32) lost to India 160/2 in 33 overs (Punam Raut 70 not out, Mithali Raj 62 not out; Marizanne Kapp 1/22) by 8 wickets.
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