Raj, Mandhana fifties hand South Africa drubbing for 2-0

India women 144 for 1 (Raj 76*, Mandhana 57, Daniels 1-21) beat South Africa women 142 for 7 (Luus 33, de Klerk 26, Poonam 2-18, Anuja 2-37) by nine wickets

A century opening stand, underpinned by fifties from Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana, handed South Africa a nine-wicket drubbing in East London and helped India go 2-0 up in the five-match T20I series with five balls to spare.

Steering the 143 chase, Raj became the first woman to score four consecutive T20I half-centuries – it was also her third straight unbeaten fifty – as she closed out the chase in captain Harmanpreet Kaur’s company with 76 not out, her highest score in the format. They reprimanded a sloppy South African fielding unit that dropped both batsmen twice each before they reached their half-centuries. While Raj was put down by Mignon du Preez and Nadine de Klerk, Mandhana brought up her fifty with consecutive sixes after being reprieved twice in the same over that was Raisibe Ntozakhe’s first.

Mandhana followed her 15-ball 28 in the first T20I with a 42-ball 57, before being trapped in front by Moseline Daniels while trying to play one across the line. Earlier, wicketkeeper Lizelle Lee had failed to snaffle a tough chance when Mandhana’s outside edge went to Lee’s left. Subsequently, Mandhana’s 106-run partnership in 14.2 overs set India on course for a comfortable chase as Raj hit the winnings runs – a four off Shabnim Ismail – while Harmanpreet finished unbeaten on a 12-ball 7.

Put in to bat again, South Africa’s 142 for 7, however, had played out much in the manner of an antithesis to India’s. Propped up by a back-arch-and-leap take by Harmanpreet at mid-off that sent back her opposite number Dane van Niekerk for 15, and coupled with Veda Krishnamurthy’s three catches at the long-on boundary off spinners, India mustered a strong fielding performance with only one blemish that came in the final over. An Ismail slog-sweep to deep midwicket ended up being parried over the rope for a six by Radha Yadav, only in her second international game, and led to the offspinner Anuja Patil conceding 16 runs off the 20th over, including a free hit and a four.

Earlier, as opposed to India’s 43 for 0 in the Powerplay, South Africa had lost the wicket of Lee for their 39 during the same period. Top-scorer Sune Luus’ 32-ball 33 and de Klerk’s 26, aided by Ismail’s unbeaten 16 off nine deliveries later on, marshalled much of the hosts’ innings but it wasn’t enough. Legspinner Poonam Yadav returned 2 for 18, while Anuja bagged a couple for 37.

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