India put up 274/7 in must-win game against SA in ICC Women's WC
Shafali Verma, Smriti Mandhana and skipper Mithali Raj struck half-centuries and set the platform for India to reach a competitive 274 for seven in their must-win ICC Women's World Cup game against South Africa at the Hagley Oval here on Sunday.
India chose to put runs on the board in the high-pressure game while their opponents took the field in their last league game having already qualified for the semifinals. Shafali (53 off 46) and Smriti (71 off 84) shared a 91-run stand off 90 balls for the opening wicket to provide the start India were looking for. Harmanpreet Kaur came up with 48 off 57 balls towards the end of the innings.
Shafali scored bulk of the runs in the partnership with Smriti and looked at her fluent best en route her maiden World Cup fifty. She put South Africa's best bowler, pacer Shabnim Ismail under the pump by attacking her from the word go. Shafali collected three boundaries off Shabnim's second over including an audacious walk across the off-stump to whip the South African bowler over short-fine leg. Her entertaining innings included eight fours.
The 18-year-old completed her first fifty of the competition with a boundary over mid-on off pacer Masabata Klaas.
With the way the openers were going about their business, India looked on course for 300 for the second time in the tournament. However, India lost Shafali against the run of play before number three batter Yastika Bhatia got out in a bizarre fashion. There was a miscommunication over a quick single on the leg side between Shafali and Smirti while
Yastika played a sweep shot on to her stumps off spinner Chloe Tryon, leaving India at 96 for two from 91 for no loss. Mithali and Smriti then got together to regain the lost momentum. Brought back into the attack after an expensive spell, Shabnim came back strongly. She used the bouncer brilliantly to put pressure on the India skipper.
It was a typical Mithali knock as she changed gears after taking her time early on. She released the pressure with a bunch of cut shots off spinners before hitting a sublime cover driver off pacer Marizanne Kapp.
With Mithali going strong and Harmanpreet joining her in the middle, India found their rhythm back to reach 223 for three in 40 overs. However, only 51 runs were scored off the last 60 balls for the loss of four wickets as India failed to get the final flourish.
Interestingly, Mithali scored her fifty in a crucial game at the same ground where she scored her maiden World Cup half-century 22 years ago.