Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana made half-centuries as India completed a comfortable victory over South Africa.
Mithali Raj hit a sublime unbeaten 76 as India beat South Africa by nine wickets in East London, cantering past the 143-run victory target for the loss of just one wicket with five balls to spare.
The veteran India right-hander – who captains the national side in the other forms of the game – hit eight fours in her 61-ball knock as the tourists completed a convincing win to go 2-0 up in the five-match series.
Raj, for whom the innings was a fourth consecutive T20I half-century, did the bulk of the work alongside her opening partner Smriti Mandhana, who smashed three sixes and four fours in a 42-ball 57. When she was dismissed – lbw to the left-arm Moseline Daniels in the 15th over – India were cruising at 106/1. T20 skipper Harmanpreet Kaur compiled an unbeaten 7 off 12 balls before Raj hit the winning runs with a boundary off the pacey Shabnim Ismail.
India's @M_Raj03 hits a Women's T20I record fourth consecutive half century, making her T20I high score of 76* to fire India to a nine wicket win and 2-0 series lead in East London!#SAvIND scorecard ➡️ https://t.co/wueWNk1mTP pic.twitter.com/gsW52Bpw9F— ICC (@ICC) February 16, 2018
South Africa’s bowlers made India work for the victory right to the end, but Ismail (0/28 off 3.1) and Marizanne Kapp (0/29 off four) couldn’t make the early breakthroughs required and while medium-pacers Daniels (1/21 off four) and Ayabonga Khaka (0/25) bowled tidily, they never realistically had enough runs to play with against an Indian top order in superlative touch.
South Africa had got off to a reasonable start with the bat having been inserted by Harmanpreet but never quite put together the big partnership they required in order to put India under genuine scoreboard pressure.
Lizelle Lee and skipper Dane van Niekerk made 15 apiece at the top of the order, finding the boundary regularly, but Lee was caught off Shikha Pandey (1/26 off four) in the fourth over and the captain fell to the other opening bowler Pooja Vastrakar (1/30 off four) in the seventh.
That brought Sune Luus and Mignon du Preez together and the pair looked set to build a decent partnership until du Preez was run out by Vastrakar to leave the score at 55/3 in the eighth. With No.5 Kapp out soon after for 3, Luus and newcomer Nadine de Klerk – playing in just her second T20I – were forced to consolidate and there followed a period of 27 balls that reaped just one boundary as wrist-spinner Poonam Yadav (2/18 from four overs) in particular kept things tight.
It was to Poonam that 22-year-old Luus eventually fell in the 16th over for a mature 33 off 32 balls – South Africa’s top score in the innings. De Klerk was out a couple of overs later for 26 off 28 – a knock of calm beyond her years, before some late hitting by Chloe Tryon (15 off 11) and Ismail – who dispatched off-spinner Anuja Patil for six in the final over to finish with 16 off nine – helped the hosts up to 142/7. Patil took the worst punishment of the Indian attack, going for 37 off her four overs – albeit taking the wickets of de Klerk and Tryon late on.
Having lost the ODI series 2-1, van Niekerk’s team have now been beaten four times out of five during the tour so far, and by comfortable margins. They now move on to Johannesburg where they’ll hope to knock a highly impressive India team off their stride in the third T20I. They’ll need to if they are to keep the series alive.
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