India produced another authoritative performance in Surat on Thursday to comfortably defeat South Africa by five wickets in the fifth T20 International, taking an unassailable 3-0 lead in the reformatted six-match series.
With two games being completely washed out, the series was extended from five to six matches with mutual agreement between the two sides. India needed to win on the day to seal the series once again.
And Harmanpreet Kaur led from the front as India won the match by five wickets.
It was once again, the Indian spinners who came to the fore after Kaur won the toss.
Off-spinner Deepti Sharma (2/19) and left-arm spinner Radha Yadav (3/23 in 4 overs) bowled brilliantly to restrict the Proteas to 98/8. They got able support from leg-spinner Poonam Yadav, who gave away only 15 runs in her 4 overs and got a wicket.
The chase was an easy one and skipper Kaur (34 not out off 32 balls) was in her element as the hosts won in 17.1 overs. Kaur’s innings had four boundaries and she added crucial 50 runs for the fourth wicket with Sharma (16). The Indian captain finished the match with an exquisite drive off seamer Ayabonga Khaka to finish the proceedings and also completed 2000 runs in the shortest format — the 2nd Indian after Mithali Raj and eighth woman to do so.
Kaur was the only player to cross 20 on the night, from either side.
Earlier Sharma kept a tight leash upfront while the two Yadavs (Radha and Poonam) put the brakes in the middle overs to set the platform for the batters.
South Africa couldn’t wriggle out of the spin web as none of their batters built on their starts, losing wickets at regular intervals.
Opener Sune Luus (16) was the first to go when she was trapped by Radha for her first wicket in the sixth over. In the next over, the other opener Lizelle Lee (7) too went back to the hut after being caught by Mandhana off Poonam’s bowling.
Laura Wolvaardt (17) and Nadine de Klerk (11) then took the visitors across the 50-mark before skipper Harmanpreet Kaur cleaned up the former and Radha had the latter caught by Sharma within a space of seven balls as SA slipped to 59/4.
Mignon du Preez (10) was then sent packing by Pandey as South Africa looked down the barrel at 74/5 in 15.4 overs.
Lara Goodall (15) and Anne Bosch (11) then added 22 runs but the visitors then lost three wickets in three balls in the last couple of overs with the score on 96 as South Africa ended two runs short of the 100-mark.
While Kaur’s batting was the highlight, on the slow pitch that has not been ideal for either side’s T20 World Cup preparation, Mandhana continued to struggle for timing. Shafali Verma and Mandhana both fell after starts and it was left to the captain to make sure India crossed the finish line without any further wobbles.
(With PTI inputs)