Van Niekerk and Lee help Proteas women emphatically break India’s unbeaten streak

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 08:  Dane van Niekerk of South Africa leads her team off the field during the ICC Women's World Cup 2017 match between South Africa and India at Grace Road on July 8, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis-IDI/IDI via Getty Images )

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 08: Dane van Niekerk of South Africa leads her team off the field during the ICC Women's World Cup 2017 match between South Africa and India at Grace Road on July 8, 2017 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis-IDI/IDI via Getty Images )

A half-century and four wickets by captain, Dané van Niekerk and a 65-ball 92 by Lizelle Lee laid the foundation for a resounding, 115-run victory for the Momentum Proteas over India, breaking their unbeaten streak when the sides met for the 18th match in the ICC Women’s World Cup in Leicester on Sunday. It was a strong statement by the South Africans, whose victory today was their first against India in a World Cup.

The day started with opener Lee, smashing 10 fours and seven 6s on her road to laying the groundwork towards her side’s 273/9 after they were asked to bat first. She did well to continue the team’s momentum after the initial loss off her partner, Laura Wolvaardt for just one run, eight balls into the match. Trisha Chetty (24) provided good support for Lee, sticking around for 45 balls as their partnership reached 91 runs for the second wicket.

Van Niekerk entered the match when her side were on a shaky 162/5 and proceeded to hit seven fours and a six to reach her 57 runs in 66 deliveries and steer the innings in a more stable position. Other notable batting contributions came from Chloe Tryon, who made another good cameo, scoring a rapid-fire 24 from 18 and Mignon du Preez, whose 22 off 29 balls helped bring calm to the innings after the loss of Lee.

India’s Shikha Pandey was the pick of the bowlers, taking three wickets for 40, while Harmanpreet Kaur (2/18) and Ekta Bisht (2/68) returned two scalps each.

Their batting reply was stifled by yet another top class bowling display by the South African skipper, who returned figures of 4/22 in her 10 overs. Two of those were the wickets of her counterpart Mithali Raj and Kaur, who both fell for ducks in the same over.

Deepti Sharma provided the last stand for India, top scoring with 60 from 111 deliveries (five fours) as everyone else except Jhulan Goswami (43), opener Punam Raut (22), and Bisht (13) returned single figures.

Van Niekerk is proud of the manner in which her side bounced back from their 68-run loss to England on Wednesday.

“I’m incredibly proud of the team, that’s the response that any captain wants to see after a loss like that,” she said. “It was a very tough loss, a lot of bowlers went and had a bit of downtime where they reflected on their personal performances and came back with plans on how they were gonna do better.

“It’s a very tough tournament, it’s hard on the body and it’s a long tournament as well. We’re not used to playing tournaments this long so I’m glad they took that time. I’m glad that they hurt (after the England match), because today they came back firing.”

South Africa are now one step closer to a semi-final qualification. They rise to fourth place on the tournament log, while India remain steadfast in second place behind defending champions, Australia.

The Proteas will move to Taunton tomorrow for their last two matches against Sri Lanka on Wednesday and Australia on Saturday. Both will be live on SuperSport from 11:00 SAST, play starts at 11:30 (10:30 local time).

Live scoring will be available on Cricket South Africa’s social media platforms; Facebook (www.facebook.com/cricketsouthafrica) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/officialcsa).