Mandhana and Harmanpreet top Wolvaardt and Kapp in landmark 646-run contest

South Africa

India 325 for 3 (Mandhana 136, Harmanpreet 103*, Mlaba 2-51) beat South Africa 321 for 6 (Wolvaardt 135*, Kapp 114, Vastrakar 2-54, Deepti 2-56) by four runs

Four centuries, a first in women’s ODIs. A total of 646 runs. The spectators in Bengaluru were treated to as entertaining a game of 50-over cricket as they could have imagined, and the result went their way too: India clinched a last-ball win over South Africa to secure the series 2-0 with a match in hand.

It came down to Pooja Vastrakar‘s final over where she had to defend 10 runs after India had posted 325 for 3. After conceding five off the first two balls, both full tosses, her next two deliveries fetched her two wickets with Laura Wolvaardt, one of four century-makers in the game, stranded at the non-striker’s end. The equation became five off the final delivery, and Wolvaardt, finally on strike, was beaten by Vastrakar’s back-of-the-hand slower delivery.

Not long ago, South Africa were at the receiving end of the highest successful ODI run-chase of 302 by Sri Lanka. On Wednesday, they came close to breaking that record but fell just short of it.

SA start brilliantly with the ball

The way South Africa started with the ball, one would have expected India to stop at around 230-240.

The second ODI was played on a different strip to the series opener, with a patch of grass and visible cracks on it. The new-ball pair of Ayabonga Khaka and Masabata Klaas extracted everything they could from it, exerting pressure on Shafali Verma and Mandhana with a lot of movement. A bit of variable bounce also meant runs were hard to get initially. Mandhana, in fact, got off the mark after 18 deliveries.

As for Shafali, she showed glimpses of patience in her 38-ball innings but it was short-lived. After smashing a four straight down the ground off left-arm spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba, she tried to go across the line next ball and holed out to Klaas at mid-on.

After 15 overs, India had huffed and puffed to 47 for 1, hitting just five fours. In this period, they had faced 72 dot balls.

The game-changing partnership

Along with D Hemalatha, the No. 3, Mandhana stitched a steady 62 runs off 68 balls. Hemalatha fell for a 41-ball 24, and it was only after Harmanpreet walked out that runs started flowing.

The pitch had also eased out by then, and Harmanpreet and Mandhana put on a huge partnership – 171 runs off 136 balls. Their centuries not only helped India overcome their sedate start but also batted South Africa into a corner (though not out of the game, as it emerged).

Mandhana oozed class and Harmanpreet showed what power and deft touch can do.

Mandhana picked up pace, getting herself from 31 off the first 48 balls to her seventh ODI hundred in 103 balls, and went on to add 36 more. When the bowlers varied their lines, she moved around the crease and either slashed it to deep point or pulled to the square-leg area. Along the way, Mandhana also became the first Indian to score back-to-back centuries in women’s ODIs.

Harmanpreet didn’t have to start slow, unlike her deputy. After racing to a run-a-ball 24, she got quicker as her innings progressed. Unlike Mandhana, who scored on both sides of the wicket, Harmanpreet scored predominantly on the leg side. A total of 70 of her runs came on that side, with four of her nine fours and two out of three sixes hit in the midwicket region.

Meike de Ridder, who played in place of South Africa’s first-choice wicketkeeper Sinalo Jafta after she suffered a mild concussion on the eve of the match, missed a stumping chance when Harmanpreet was on 88, off the second delivery off the final over. It gave Harmanpreet a chance to complete her sixth ODI century, the first in almost two years, and she smoked 4, 6 and 4 to get to three figures.

South Africa ran out of steam, with Wolvaardt even bringing on legspinning-allrounder Sune Luus – who was bowling in ODIs after a gap of two years – into the attack. However, they couldn’t contain India, who scored 118 runs in the last ten overs.

At the other end, Richa Ghosh, batting at No. 5, plundered a 13-ball unbeaten 25, comprising three fours and a six, and was key in the unbroken 54-run stand with Harmanpreet.

Kapp and Wolvaardt fight back

Kapp and Wolvaardt, the senior pros, were resolute and unwavering in their focus.

This being South Africa’s second-last series in the 2022-25 Women’s Championship cycle, they need a couple of wins out of six to ensure automatic qualification for the World Cup next year in India. They had already lost the opening game, and needed points here. They play England next at home.

South Africa didn’t get off to an ideal start, losing three wickets for 67 inside 15 overs. However, unlike on Sunday, the pitch was helping the batters during the chase with the Indian spinners not getting enough grip and turn under lights. That helped Wolvaardt and Kapp settle in and then go big in the last 15 or so overs.

Initially, they kept the scoreboard ticking over, putting away the loose deliveries and taking singles off good ones. That clarity and patience saw both the set batters converting their starts and getting to half-centuries.

Kapp, playing as a pure batter with her workload being managed following a back injury, thrived under pressure and hit 11 fours and three sixes in her 94-ball 114. Wolvaardt, who became the first South Africa batter to score 4000 runs in women’s ODIs on the night, took calculated risks and paced her innings well to stay till the end. Her knock had 12 fours and three sixes.

With 148 runs needed from the last 15 overs, the pair accelerated. Even after Kapp was dismissed in the 43rd, courtesy a superb catch from Vastrakar at long-off, Wolvaardt kept going hard, striking the ball effortlessly.

Nadine de Klerk’s cameo of 28 also helped South Africa get closer. Till, in the end, they fell just short.

Srinidhi Ramanujam is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo

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