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Four centuries, a first in women’s ODIs. A total of 646 rides. The spectators in Bengaluru were treated to a game of 50-over cricket beyond anything they could have imagined, and the result was also a crowd pleaser: India recorded 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 posted 325 for 3. After getting five off the first two balls, both full tosses, her next two deliveries gave 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 after the last throw, and Wolvaardt, who was finally on strike, was defeated by Vastrakar’s slower throw.

Earlier, after being asked to bat first, India scored their third highest ODI total with Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur hitting 136 and 103 not out respectively. Although it looked out of reach after South Africa were reduced to 67 for 3 in the chase, Wolvaardt and Mariazanne Kapp’s 184-run partnership took the match deep.

Not so long ago, South Africa was on the receiving end of Sri Lanka’s most successful ODI chase of 302. On Wednesday they came close to breaking that record, but fell just now in short.

The way South Africa started with the ball, you would expect India to stop around 230-240.

The second ODI was played on a different strip than the series opener, with a patch of grass and visible cracks on it. The newcomers pair Ayabonga Khaka and Masabata Klaas made the most of it and put pressure on Shafali Verma and Mandhana with a lot of movement. A bit of variable bounce also made runs difficult to come by initially. Mandhana got off the ground even after 18 deliveries.

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

After fifteen overs, India had puffed to 47 for 1, hitting just five fours. During this period they had encountered 72 dot balls.

Along with Dayalan Hemalatha, the number 3, Mandhana scored a steady 62 runs off 68 balls. Hemalatha fell for a 41-ball 24, and it was only after Harmanpreet walked out that the runs started to flow.

The pitch had also calmed down a bit by then, and Harmanpreet and Mandhana formed a huge partnership: 171 runs off 136 balls. Their centuries not only helped India overcome their sedate start, but also knocked South Africa into a corner (but not out of the game, as it turned out).

Mandhana exuded class and Harmanpreet showed what strength and deft touch can do.

Mandhana picked up the pace, taking herself from 31 off the first 48 balls to her seventh ODI hundred in 103 balls, adding another 36. When the bowlers varied their lines, they moved around the crease and cut it to a deep point or pulled to the square-leg area. Along the way, Mandhana also became the first Indian to score consecutive centuries in women’s ODIs.

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

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

South Africa hit their stride, with Wolvaardt even bringing in leg-spinning all-rounder Sune Luus – who was bowling in ODIs after a two-year break – into the attack. However, they could not contain India who scored 118 runs in the last ten overs.

At the other end, Richa Ghosh, batting at number 5, plundered an unbeaten 25 off 13 balls, comprising three fours and a six, and was key in the unbroken 54-run stand with Harmanpreet.

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

With this being South Africa’s penultimate series of the 2022-25 women’s championship cycle, they need a pair of wins from six to automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup in India. They had already lost the opening match and needed points here. They play against England at home.

South Africa did not get off to an ideal start, losing three wickets for 67 inside 15 overs. However, unlike on Sunday, the pitch aided the batters in the chase, with the Indian spinners not getting enough grip and turning under lights. That helped Wolvaardt and Kapp to settle in and then go big in the last fifteen overs.

Initially, they kept the scoreboard ticking, tucking away the loose deliveries and taking away the good singles. That clarity and patience saw both the set batters convert their starts and reach half-centuries.

Kapp, who played as a pure hitter and kept her workload in check after a back injury, thrived under pressure, hitting 11 fours and three sixes in her 94-ball 114. Wolvaardt, who became the first South African batswoman to score 4000 runs in the women’s ODIs took calculated risks that evening and played a good pace in her innings to stay the course till the end. Her knock had twelve fours and three sixes.

With 148 runs needed from the last 15 overs, the pair accelerated. Even after Kapp was dismissed in the 43rd, thanks to a brilliant long-range catch from Vastrakar, Wolvaardt continued to push hard and hit the ball effortlessly.

Nadine de Klerk’s cameo from 28 also helped South Africa draw closer. Until they finally fell just short.

Short scores:
Indian women 325 for 3 in 50 overs (Smirti Mandhana 136, Shafali Verma 20, Dayalan Hemalatha 24, Harmanpreet Kaur 103*, Richa Ghosh 25*; Nonkululeko Mlaba 2-51) defeat South African women 321 for 6 in 50 overs (Laura Wolvaardt 135*, Marizzane Kapp 114, Nadine de Klerk 28; Pooja Vastrakar 2-54, Deepti Sharma 2-56) with four runs

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