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South Africa came into this match with the series already lost, India having won the previous two encounters, but there were still precious points at stake in the ICC Women's Championship, with the top four teams qualifying automatically for the 2021 Women's Cricket World Cup.
Mignon du Preez was the star of the show in a seven-wicket victory for the hosts, hitting 90 not out from 111 deliveries to see her side to victory with four balls to spare after India had scored 240 from their 50 overs.
India's captain Mithali Raj opted to bat after winning the toss but her team were immediately in trouble when Shabnim Ismail (4/30) dismissed Smriti Mandhana for a third-ball duck in the first over. Raj was soon following the opener back to the pavilion when she fell to Ayabonga Khaka for just 4.
Deepti Sharma set about rescuing the innings, top-scoring with 79 and receiving support from Harmanpreet Kaur (25) and Veda Krishnamurthy (56) to push India up to 186/4. In the process, Sharma became the youngest Indian women, and joint-fastest with Mithali Raj in terms of innings (29) to reach the landmark of 1,000 ODI runs.
However, her dismissal, caught at mid-wicket off the bowling of Chloe Tryon, precipitated a collapse as India lost their final six wickets for 56 runs and were grateful for a 16-ball 31 from Shikha Pandey to take them to a respectable total.
Right-arm seamer Ismail was the pick of the South African bowlers, her pace proving too much for the Indian tailenders.
South Africa edge a thriller in the ICC Women's Championship! 90* from @MdpMinx22 guides the Proteas to a 7 wicket win against India in Potchefstroom with 4 balls remaining! #SAvIND scorecard ➡️ https://t.co/tBVJjHxlGr pic.twitter.com/YjTHY9FTpK— ICC (@ICC) February 10, 2018
In reply, the dangerous Lizelle Lee was seen off for 10 by Pandey, with Ekta Bisht taking the catch at backward point, but India's attack struggled to take wickets from then on, as Laura Wolvaardt (59) shared a useful second-wicket partnership of 41 with Andrie Steyn (30) and then combined impressively with du Preez to add a further 118 runs.
Bisht's dismissal of Wolvaardt offered India a glimmer of hope but du Preez remained unfazed and found a willing partner in captain Dane van Niekerk (41 not out from 30 deliveries), with the latter playing expansively to ensure the required run rate was kept in check.
India needed wickets if they were to seal a 3-0 series whitewash but none were forthcoming and du Preez and van Niekerk paced the chase to perfection, drawing on all their experience. Du Preez hit the winning runs off Pandey in the final over of the match to claim a consolation win in the series but a victory that could prove vital in the Women's Championship.