Dane Van Niekerk provided the latest twist to the 2017 Women’s World Cup as South Africa thrashed previously unbeaten India.
The Proteas’ skipper hit a crucial half-century before producing a beguiling spell of 3-5 in 15 balls as South Africa triumphed by 115 runs at Grace Road.
At the other end, seamer Ayabonga Khaka weighed in with two victims of her own. It meant India lost five wickets in 27 balls for just nine runs in what became a fruitless pursuit of 274 for victory. Their 100 percent World Cup record was left in tatters.
It was a tremendous retort from a South African bowling unit savaged by England three days earlier at Bristol. It said a lot too for the character of the youngest average-age team in the tournament.
Skipper Leads Victory Charge
Much credit for South Africa’s victory must go to Van Niekerk for whom this was a huge personal triumph.
Less than a week after taking 4-0 in the thrashing of the West Indies, her spell of leg-spin again proved decisive. The two spells taken together would mean a return of 7-5 in 35 balls.
India Suffer batting Horror Show
South Africa’s total of 273, in which Lizelle Lee plundered 92, certainly looked above par.
However, no-one was prepared for the way India, England’s conquerors on match-day one surrendered with barely a whimper.
Batting star Smriti Mandhana struck her first ball for four only to perish to her next delivery, caught by Shabnim Ismail at long-leg off new-ball partner Marizanne Kapp.
They appeared to have recovered from the shock when at 47-1 in the 12th over carnage began. Khaka (2-33) uprooted Poonam Raut’s middle stump with a beauty. Two balls later, Van Niekerk, newly into the attack matched the feat castling in-form Indian skipper Mithali Raj.
The confidence acquired from four previous wins was replaced by a suffocating sense of panic, only increased when two balls later more devilish spin saw Van Niekerk trap Harmanpreet Kaur LBW.
Khaka spread-eagled Veda Krishnamurthey’s stumps and when Van Niekerk concluded her devastating spell with one which spun beyond Shika Pandey’s bat, leaving her stranded as wicketkeeper Trisha Chetty demolished the stumps, India had plummeted to 56-6.
No collapse would be complete without a run-out and wicketkeeper Sushma Verma soon obliged after a mix-up with Deepti Sharma.
Sharma Stands Alone Amid Wreckage
The run-out apart, Sharma (60) had stood firm amid the wreckage, completing a gutsy half-century in an eighth wicket stand with Jhullan Goswami (43 not out). Inevitably, it was Van Niekerk (4-22) who ended the defiance having the all-rounder caught in the deep.
Goswami’s late flurry of boundaries gave a veneer or respectability, but could not disguise the drubbing an India side who’d won 17/18 prior to this had suffered.
Lizelle Lee at Brutal Best
Earlier, put in by India, the Proteas’ reliable opening pair were soon parted. Youngster Laura Woolvardt was the one to suffer a rare failure Pandey scattering her stumps for just a single.
Lee was unusually circumspect at first, but it wasn’t long before her pugilistic style of batting came to the fore. Pandey was the first to feel the force of her blows as she was deposited in the stands.
A Goswani delivery travelled further still, sailing over deep mid-wicket, almost ending up on the road.
Skipper Mithali Raj turned to spin in a bid to curb Lee’s assault. However, Ekta Bisht was treated with even greater disdain, disappearing over the ropes twice in an over.
Lee’s 50 came in 44 balls with five fours and four sixes and the 25-year-old right-hander was far from finished. Two more towering maximums soon followed, with Deepti Sharma to be the lamb to the slaughter. Wicketkeeper Trisha Chetty was content to play second fiddle in a stand of 91.
Poonam Yadav proved the one to apply the brakes with three overs for four runs and the pressure got to Chetty (24) who lofted Bisht to Goswami at mid-off.
Lee though bludgeoned on regardless, surging into the 90s. Her dismissal came as a surprise, Harmanpreet Kaur snaring her LBW, though the length of time Jaqueline Williams took to raise the finger left room for doubt about the verdict. Had the West Indian official taken any longer we might have been in need of floodlights.
Mignon Du Preez (22) and Marizanne Kappe produced pleasing cameos, only to fall within nine balls of each other. The latter failed to make the most of being dropped by Sushma Verma on one, losing her middle stump to spinner Kaur.
Van Niekerk plays Steadying Hand
South Africa were wobbling, but Van Niekerk came to their rescue.
Beginning with Sune Luus (16) the South African skipper slowly rebuilt a position of strength. Van Niekerk mixed patience with controlled aggression, her 57 in 66 balls perfectly paced.
Chloe Tryon continued the belligerence shown against England, weighing in with 24 off 16 balls including successive sixes off Bisht. It added up to a challenging 273-9.
It was a task well beyond India, who, faced for the first time in the World Cup with a challenging chase, simply crumbled.
With games against favourites Australia and New Zealand to come all of a sudden it will be a nervous few days for the visitors from the sub-continent.
South Afri, by contrast, t will approach Wednesday’s clash with Sri Lanka with renewed confidence. A win down at Taunton may just prove enough to clinch them a prized place in the semi-finals.