Oh no (ball)! India (over) steps out of World Cup

A no-ball in the final over of the match made all the difference in a thriller as India crashed out of the ICC Women’s World Cup with a last-ball three-wicket defeat to South Africa in Christchurch on Sunday.

Chasing 275 for victory, South Africa needed three runs off two balls with Mignon du Preez (51) on strike. It was their game to lose. But off-spinner Deepti Sharma had du Preez hole out to Harmanpreet Kaur at long-on. That would have meant three needed off the last ball with two tail-end batters at the crease, making India the favourites to seal the win and a semifinal spot.

But while they were celebrating, a no-ball check found that Deepti had overstepped by the slenderest of margins. Not only was Du Preez recalled, South Africa got an extra ball – that too a free hit – and got home.

India can blame misfortune for their ouster, but they also contributed to their own downfall. Dropped catches, poor ground fielding, uninspiring captaincy, and some clueless bowling towards the end meant last edition’s losing finalists ended their campaign at the Hagley Oval. That experienced pacer Jhulan Goswami didn’t play due to a side strain may have made a bit of difference to the outcome.

Valiant Harmanpreet

Harmanpreet, at least, didn’t deserve to be on the losing side. The India vice-captain scored a 57-ball 48 and provided India with the much-needed breakthrough with the wicket of the tournament’s leading run-scorer Laura Wolvaardt (80 off 49 balls; 11x4s). Thereafter, she trapped South African skipper Sune Luus (22 off 27 balls; 1×4). Not to forget the three run-outs she was responsible for. Her pinpoint throw caught Lizelle Lee (6) short of the crease to provide India their first wicket.

When du Preez (52 not out off 63 balls; 2x4s) and Marizanne Kapp (32 off 30 balls; 3x4s) were involved in a 47-run stand for the fifth wicket, it was Harmanpreet’s underarm throw to wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh’s gloves that caught Kapp short. Du Preez was given a reprieve in the 44th over, with Mandhana dropping a regulation catch in the deep but India made up for it by running her out two balls later.

Needing 45 off 30, the tide shifted in South Africa’s favour in the next two overs, with Chloe Tryon and Du Preez finding five boundaries to bring the required run rate down to almost a-run-a-ball. Rajeshwari Gayakwad struck with the final ball of the 46th over, taking a simple return catch off Tryon’s leading edge.

With 14 needed off two overs, South Africa decided to avoid risks in Gayakwad’s final over, playing the field to take seven runs. Du Preez got to her fifty in the final over, but Trisha Chetty was run out on the same ball when they tried to steal a brace.

Last-over drama

It all came down to the 100th over of the game. Du Preez’s attempted big shot couldn’t clear the boundary, only for the delivery to be adjudged a no-ball on replay.

With two needed from the last two balls, the South Africans avoided any more risks and eliminated India from the World Cup, taking West Indies into the final four.

Rampant Shafali

Sanjay Manrekar, on-air, said, “Shafali Verma is a rare gift to Indian women’s cricket. And the team management must take great care of her.”

The Indian opener had made her intentions clear very early. She took on Shabnim Ismail, the quickest bowler of the tournament, and hit her for a hat-trick of boundaries. Luus had to remove her trump card from the attack after she conceded 31 runs in her first three overs. However, the experienced bowler made a fiery comeback with figures of 7-1-11-2 in her subsequent spells.

Shafali (53 off 46 balls; 8x4s) was run out in the 15th over after a bizarre mix-up with opening partner Smriti Mandhana, sacrificing her wicket for the senior player.

Yastika Bhatia (2) followed shortly after to Chloe Tryon (1/24) as India were reduced to 96/2.

Smriti and skipper Mithali Raj looked assured at the crease before a moment of brilliance on the field ended the 78-run stand. Smriti tried to clear the in-field, but a stunning catch by Tryon diving to her wrong side ended her innings on 71.

After a few quiet overs, Mithali started to take the attack to the bowlers and got to her fifty in the 36th over. The onslaught continued before another good catch from Tryon sent the skipper back.

South Africa managed to tie India down at the start of the final 10 overs with a short-ball ploy. Pooja Vastrakar was pushed up the order, but the move didn’t work as she was dismissed by Ismail’s slower ball.

Boundaries were hard to come by before Harmanpreet finally found her timing in the 48th over with two consecutive fours to give some impetus to the innings. The South Africans again pulled it back in the final two overs with the wickets of Richa Ghosh and Kaur to restrict India to 274/7.

Semi-final line-up

West Indies will lock horns with till-now unbeaten Australia in Wellington in the first semi-final on Thursday, while South Africa will be up against defending champions England in Christchurch on Thursday.

Brief Scores

India 274/7 in 50 overs (Smriti Mandhana 71, Shafali Verma 53, Mithali Raj 68, Harmanpreet Kaur 48; Shabnim Ismail 2/42) lost to South Africa 275/7 in 50 overs (Laura Wolvaardt 80, Lara Goodall 49, Mignon du Preez 52 not out; Harmanpreet Kaur 2/42) by three wickets

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