Harmanpreet Kaur scored an unbeaten 41 to take India to victory © Getty Images
Harmanpreet Kaur scored an unbeaten 41 to take India to victory © Getty Images

Eventually, it call came down to India‘s stand-in skipper Harmanpreet Kaur. Her decision making was not at its best, and now the onus was on her to complete the win. She led India to a the thrilling last-ball victory as the team faced South Africa in the final match of the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifiers 2017. Playing at the P Sara Oval Stadium, Colombo on Tuesday, India gave away too many runs and was set to chase 245 to win the Championship Trophy. Despite a slow start, they went on to pace up later. Harmanpreet’s heroic knock of an unbeaten 41 from as many balls took the side to victory. India thus retained their unbeaten tag in the tournament and also defeated South Africa, the runners up, twice in the tournament. Full Cricket Updates: India v South Africa, ICC Women World Cup Qualifier 2017, Final

Winning the toss, South Africa elected to bat. The openers, Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt provided the team with a powerful start. Lizelle hit 3 sixes and 3 fours before departing for 37. Her quick-fire knock put South Africa on top of the game. Indian bowlers failed to restrict the top and middle-order as runs came pouring in. South Africa batters went on making brief yet impactful partnerships to snowball the innings total to a challenging one. Apart from Lizelle, impressive knocks came from Mignon du Preez, skipper Dane van Niekerk and Sune Luus deserves a special mention.

A smart knock from the all-rounder Luss, ensured South Africa finished well. Her 35 crucial runs down the order was courtesy some big hits and smart singles. She had to bat with the tail and ensure South Africa played as many balls as possible Pairing up with Marizanne Kapp, she stole quick singles to give the team score a good boost of runs.

India’s bowling, fielding and selection of bowlers remained disappointing. India decided to go with just one pacer, a decision which was not much supported on Tuesday’s pitch. Shikha Pandey could not find any support from the other end to match her rhythm as Ekta Bisht was introduced. There was no turn at all in the beginning and it helped South African batters to score freely.

Among the bowlers, Rajeshwari Gayakwad was the highest wicket-taker, with 3 wickets. Shikha Pandey bagged a couple towards the beginning of her spell. However, the Indian spinners were not as effective and ended with poor economy.

 

Chasing the target, India had a very slow start. Opener Thirush Kamini, in the absence of Mithali Raj, was one of the major hopes for India to score the bulk of the runs. However, she got out for 10 which put the team under pressure. Mona Meshram and Deepti Sharma took the innings forward. They built the partnership slowly and steadily and were the most crucial batters for the innings. Deepti gradually paced up her innings, hitting some gorgeous boundaries in the process. She hit a total of 8 fours before getting out for 71. Mona followed her shortly for 59.

Veda Krishnamurthy and Harmanpreet built up a brief partnership following this. Veda scored a quickfire 31. There was a period of time when India lost 4 wickets in quick succession. Veda, Shikha Pandey and Devika Vaidya departed within the span of 4.2 overs. India struggled at 211 for 7 after 44.2 overs but Harmanpreet stayed at the crease.

India kept losing wickets at the other end and Harmanpreet hardly found any support. The match went down till the last over as India needed 9 from the last six balls. India lost a wicket off the first ball and Harmanpreet faced 3 dots following that, taking the equation to 8 from 2.

 

Anticipating a slower ball, Harmanpreet stepped out and hoisted pacer Marcia Letsoalo over deep midwicket for a gigantic six. When they needed 2 from the final ball, she mishit one but ran two to help India remain unbeaten. Harmanpreet remained unbeaten at run-a-ball 41 as the unbeaten Indian side lifted the championship Trophy. However, the absence of Mithali Raj was evident as many of the on-field decisions and the compactness of batting was lacking. But Harmanpreet’s spirit to take on the responsibility and lead from the front has to be praised.

South Africa played exceptionally well. Among the bowlers, Marizanne Kapp was the most successful, taking a couple of wickets and giving away just 36 runs in her 10 overs. She remained unlucky to have not been given an lbw which was a very close call. Luus could not pick up any wickets in the match while Ayabonga Khaka bowled well and claimed 2 scalps as well.

Brief scores:

South Africa Women 244 in 49.4 overs (Lizelle Lee 37, Mignon du Preez 40, Dane van Niekerk 37, Sune Luus 35; Shikha Pandey 2 for 41, Rajeshwari Gayakwad 3 for 51) lost to India Women 245 for 9 (Mona Meshram 59, Deepti Sharma 71, Veda Krishnamurthy 31, Harmanpreet Kaur 41*; Marizanne Kapp 2 for 36, Ayabonga Khaka 2 for 55) by 1 wicket.

Player of the Tournament: Sune Luus