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Mandhana’s graceful 90 leads India to 6-wicket win

Bengaluru, June 23: Smriti Mandhana waltzed to a characteristically elegant 90 to form the crux of India’s six-wicket win in the third and final women’s ODI against South Africa, marking their 3-0 series clean sweep here on Sunday.
Mandhana, whose innings came off 83 balls, had efficient support casts in Shafali Verma (25), Priya Punia (28) and Harmanpreet Kaur as India went past the target of 216 without exerting themselves much.
The hosts made 220 for four in 40.4 overs, after South Africa were restricted to an underwhelming 215 for eight despite skipper Laura Wolvaardt’s solid 61.
Though she failed to make a third hundred on the bounce, the knock underlined the way Mandhana dominated this ODI series, scoring 343 runs at an average of 114.33.
The 27-year-old was once again composed in the middle, and played some typically graceful shots around the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
The pitch was smoothened out during the chase and the SA bowling was anything but threatening, giving the Indian vice-captain ample time to pursue her game without an iota of pressure.
On view were those trademark shots that make her batting a sight for the sore eyes – swivel pulls, cover drives, straight drives and those late taps that touch the rope after teasing the third man fielder.
However, Mandhana’s batting partners too deserved a pat on their backs for producing little yet polished knocks.
Shafali helped her make 61 runs in 11.5 overs for the opening wicket, while Priya, who is playing an ODI for the first time since 2019, assisted her in amassing 62 runs in 66 balls for the second wicket.
Skipper Harmanpreet was fluent during the unbeaten third wicket stand that was worth 54 runs.
But the vociferous, highly-partisan crowd that touched 15000 could not see a popular Mandhana century, as her attempt to sweep left-arm spinner Nonku Mlaba ended in the hands of Ayabonga Khaka.
Earlier, the Indian bowlers showed an unbending will to restrict South Africa to 215 for eight after the visitors raced to 102 without loss in 19.5 overs.
Wolvaardt and Tazmin Brits negated Indian bowlers during their first-wicket alliance as SA looked set for a big total that could have given them a chance to register a consolation win.
Both Wolvaardt and Brits were comfortable against the Indian bowlers even though there was a hint of varied bounce, which was evident when pacer Pooja Vastrakar beat the defence of Sune Luus (13) with a delivery that stayed close to her ankle.
However, the SA openers found a way to tackle that, as they hardly opted for aerial shots and collected their runs more pragmatically with singles, twos and the occasional power shots.
The tourists crossed the 100-run mark in the 18th over but their fortunes turned around when pacer Arundhati Reddy pulled off an excellent return catch to dismiss a set Wolvaardt.
Arundhati later produced an even better caught and bowled effort to jettison Anneke Bosch as India twisted the knife through SA’s batting unit.
However, South Africa also had their own indiscretions to blame for the downfall.
Brits and Nondumise Shangase (16) charged out for non-existing singles to get run out just when they were looking to upshift the gears.
The Proteas lost eight wickets for 113 runs in that period and it was always going to be too deep an abyss for them to climb back. (PTI)

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