India's four-match winning streak in the Women's World Cup was brought to a crashing halt with a 115-run loss against South Africa, following an abject batting surrender here today.
The star South African performer was captain Dane van Niekerk who first made a valuable 57 off 66 balls to guide South Africa to 273 for nine before taking four wickets with leg-spin to help her team bundle out the Indians for 158 in 46 overs. Besides the South African skipper, opener Lizelle Lee too made a significant contribution by hammering 92 off 65 balls after India put the opposition in at Grace Road.
India would have sealed their semifinal berth with a win today but now have their task cut out in the remaining round robin matches against the mighty Australia and New Zealand. The game was pretty much done and dusted when India collapsed to 56 for six in the 17th over of the chase.
Deepti Sharma saved India the blushes of getting bowled out for under 100 by scoring a solid 60 off 111 balls with support from number nine Jhulan Goswami, who remained unbeaten on 43.
It was a good batting wicket, something that Lee herself mentioned, but the Indian batsmen were all at sea and crumbled under the scoreboard pressure.
Opener Smriti Mandhana, who took the tournament by storm with a 90 and 106 in the first two games, suffered a third failure in a row. In-form captain Mithali Raj fell for her maiden golden duck while Harmanpreet Kaur too departed without scoring, both getting out to Niekerk.
While Niekerk foxed the Indians by mixing leg-breaks with the straighter ones, medium pacers Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp and Ayabonga Khaka were equally effective.
Earlier, Indian bowlers bounced back after Lee's brutal attack at the top of the order before Niekerk revived the South African innings with a crucial half century. India were put under severe pressure early on as Lee's brutal attack propelled South Africa to 71 for one in 10 overs.
The conditions were ideal for batting and Lee made the most of it, hitting as much as 10 fours and seven sixes. She missed out on a well-deserved hundred after being trapped in front of the stumps by offie Harmanpreet (2/18), leaving South Africa at 134 for three in the 21st over. From there on, the Indian bowlers were able to contain the opposition batters by taking wickets at regular intervals.
Pacer Shikha Pandey, brought back into the side in place of Mansi Joshi, was the pick of the bowlers taking three wickets for 40 runs from nine overs.
India's most prolific spinner in the tournament, Ekta Bisht, proved expensive leaking 68 runs in nine overs though she did take a couple of wickets. She went for as much as 20 runs in the 46th over when Niekerk and Chloe Tyron whacked her for three sixes. India were well on course to restrict South Africa under 250 but Niekerk spoiled their plans with her late onslaught.