India 147/6 (Amanjot 41*, Bhatia 35, Deepti 33, Mlaba 2-15) South Africa 120/9 (Luce 29, Tryon 26, Vaidya 2-19) by 27 runs
The Indian spinners then used the dry, slow surface in hot and humid conditions to their advantage to suffocate South Africa and seal a 27-run victory.
This happened after India’s captain Harmanpreet Kaur had to pull out of the competition due to illness. Shikha Pandey, Renuka Singh and Pooja Vastrakar, who returned to the Tourist XI, were also not there.
South Africa seized early control
Using his bowlers in spells of one over each in the first four overs, Sune Luus ensured that South Africa kept the pressure on India. At the end of the powerplay, India’s score was 29 for 1. Harleen Deol then welcomed left-arm spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba with a slice through backward point and short third after dancing down the wicket. But after a slight hesitation on the second run, she was run out on the very next ball. Jemimah Rodrigues was caught behind leg after Mlaba missed a pull shot.
Bhatia shows off his wares
Perhaps if Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh – part of the inaugural U-19 Women’s T20 World Cup – were both available, Bhatia might not have found a place in the XI. But he took full advantage of his opportunity.
After she was put on life support when she was two years old, Bhatia was able to obtain measurements of the surface. She kept moving around the crease to keep the bowlers away from their length. She first greeted seamer Nadine de Klerk with a middle heave through midwicket. Then, she went across her stumps and scooped a full ball from Masabata class over fine leg for a six. Next ball, he picked up the short ball and punched the pull over square leg.
Deepti, Amanjot revive India
In dire straits once again, India had to look to Deepti to bail them out of a tight spot. In the company of seam-bowling all-rounder Amanjot, he worked with a resurgence act. Luus was happy to attempt to squeeze out the slower bowlers, including himself.
But Deepti broke the shackles by lofting Tucker over long-on for a six. After this, Amanjot hit consecutive fours with the help of covers off Khaka’s ball. She then hit two more fours off successive deliveries from Marijan Kapp – the second through a lucky top edge over the wicket-keeper. Due to his three fours, India managed to score 15 runs in the 19th over.
South Africa in the maze
India had six spin-bowling options in the XI and South Africa’s chase was always going to be difficult. Dipti insisted only after having Laura Wolvaardt caught and bowled by the other opener, Anneke Bosch, on a string. Rajeshwari Gaikwad was then the beneficiary, striking her second ball to dismiss her.
Kapp, playing T20Is after 16 months, was the only one to do well with the bat. She hit a four and a six in the second over off left-arm fast bowler Anjali Sarwani but was caught by the spin. She managed to hold the fort off 35 balls during their 27-run partnership with Luus, but was dismissed at long-off when legspinner Vaidya tossed one in his area.
Luce soon fell after a mix-up with Chloe Tryon, who was practically South Africa’s last hope. He kept the hosts’ slim hopes alive by hitting two fours each off Deepti and Vaidya. But when Radha Yadav got out lbw, the writing was on the wall.
S Sudarshanan is the Deputy Editor at ESPNcricinfo