Christchurch: India on Sunday were knocked out of the ICC Women's World Cup after losing to South Africa by three wickets in a thrilling league match at Hagley Oval.
After sizzling half-centuries from Smriti Mandhana, Mithali Raj and Shafali Verma took India to a respectable 274/7, South Africa were cruising with Laura Wolvaardt top-scoring with 80 and sharing a 125-run stand with Lara Goodall (49).
But a straightforward chase turned into a thriler as India made inroads. It required the calmness of Mignon du Preez to take South Africa home off the final ball of the chase. Another big moment was when South Africa needed three runs off two balls, du Preez holed out to long-on off Deepti Sharma. But replays showed Deepti overstepping by the tiniest of margins.
Eventually, du Preez's whip through mid-wicket broke the hearts of Indian fans as South Africa aced their highest successful chase in ODIs. It also meant that the West Indies sealed the final spot for the semifinals. Australia will meet West Indies in the first semifinal on Wednesday, while South Africa take on holders England in Thursday's second semifinal.
In pursuit of 275, Lizelle Lee was run out early via a direct hit from Harmanpreet Kaur. But Wolvaardt, their prolific run-getter in the tournament, led the recovery for South Africa by taking the attack to India. With her eye-catchy, well-timed cover drives, Wolvaardt was in control of her game, building the pressure on India.
Supporting her enormously was Goodall, who hit Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Pooja Vastrakar through mid-wicket. Wolvaardt got her fifty with a cut off the backfoot through backward point. South Africa were helped by India not being able to maintain a consistent line and length apart from the misfields. The duo kept the scoreboard ticking with strike rotation, keeping the required run-rate under check.
India's quest for a breakthrough finally ended when Gayakwad enticed Goodall with a flighted delivery turning past her inner edge and was stumped for 49, ending the 125-run partnership. One brought two for India as Harmanpreet clean bowled Wolvaardt with a turning-in delivery that hit the off-stump.
From there, India tightened the screws on South Africa by drying the boundaries. Du Preez and captain Sune Luus stitched a stand of 37 runs for the fourth wicket. But Harmanpreet struck again, trapping Luus lbw with a full ball turning in and going past the flick to hit her on the knee roll. India took the DRS and replays showed the ball hitting the top of the leg-stump.
Marizanne Kapp broke the boundary-less run of 11 overs by leaning into a cover drive past mid-off. With 77 needed off the last 10 overs, South Africa brought up their 200 and was followed by Kapp cutting Kaur through point. Kapp and du Preez rotated strike consistently against spinners without taking any undue risk to keep the Proteas in chase.
Mandhana dropped a simple chance off du Preez at long-on off Gayakwad. But two balls later, Harmanpreet fired an underarm throw from cover-point and Ghosh whipped the bails to catch a diving Kapp short of her crease.
Du Preez hit back-to-back fours off Vastrakar off the last two balls of 46th over. It was followed by Chloe Tryon hitting Gayakwad for successive fours off the first two balls of 47th over. After a loft over long-off on a full toss, Gayakwad had the last laugh in taking out Tryon with a caught and bowled dismissal on the final ball of the over.
The equation came down to seven runs off the final over. Harmanpreet fired a throw from long-on and Deepti threw the ball to stumps, catching Trisha Chetty short of crease while going for a second run while du Preez reached her fifty via the first run.
In a bid for the glory shot, du Preez holed out to long-on off Deepti but the off-spinner had overstepped and from there, it was ecstasy for South Africa and West Indies while it was agony for India.