Lucknow, Mar 22 (PTI) The series already out of their grasp, Indian women would look to avoid a whitewash and end it on a positive note when they take on South Africa in the third and final T20 International here on Tuesday.
After losing the ODI rubber 1-4, things went from bad to worse for the Indian team as it lost the first two T20Is to hand South Africa an unassailable 0-2 lead in the series.
In fact, this is the first time that the Indian women's team has lost a T20 series against the South Africans.
The Indians approached the series against South Africa, their first in a year, with an aim to shrug off their rustiness and prepare for the ODI World Cup, to be held in 12 months' time.
But things didn't go as per plan as the momentum India gained with good performances from 2017 to 2019 got lost somewhere after they were completely outplayed in the two limited overs formats by South Africa, a side they have beaten consistently over the years.
From poor fielding by Richa Ghosh, Rajeshwari Gaikawad and Arundhati Reddy, to Deepti Sharma's struggles with the bat and stand-in skipper Smriti Mandhana's unimaginative captaincy, nothing went according to plan for India in the first two T20Is.
After posting a below-par 130 for 6 in the first T20I, which South Africa chased down with eight wickets in hand, the Indians fared a tad better in the next match, scoring 158 for four. But the target was not enough as the visitors overwhelmed it with six wickets in hand.
Harleen Deol and Shefali Verma has been among the runs in both the matches but inconsistent performances of Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrirues and Richa Ghosh did not help India's cause.
India seem to be badly missing the services of regular skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, who is out with a hip injury.
On the bowling front too, the spin trio of Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav and spinning all-rounder Deepti failed to live up to expectations, while pacers Arundhati Reddy and Simran Dil Bahadur, too, have been ineffective.
South Africa, on the other hand, looked like a well-oiled machine as both their batters and bowlers have excelled on the tour.
Lizlee Lee, Anneke Bosch and Laura Wolvaardt have been in red-hot form with the bat. Skipper Sune Luus, too, is in good touch, while Mignon du Preez didn't get much opportunity to showcase her mettle in the shortest format.
Shabnim Ismail and Bosch shone with the ball for South Africa.
Teams (from): Indian women: Harmanpreet Kaur (Captain), Smriti Mandhana (vice-captain), Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Richa Ghosh, Harleen Deol, Sushma Verma (wicket-keeper), Nuzhat Parveen (wicket-keeper), Ayushi Soni, Arundhati Reddy, Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Mansi Joshi, Monica Patel, C. Prathyusha, Simran Dil Bahadur.
South Africa women: Sune Luus (captain), Ayabonga Khaka, Shabnim Ismail, Laura Wolvaardt, Trisha Chetty, Sinalo Jafta, Tasmin Britz, Marizanne Kapp, Nondumiso Shangase, Lizelle Lee, Anneke Bosch, Faye Tunnicliffe, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Mignon du Preez, Nadine de Klerk, Lara Goodall, Tumi Sekhukhune.
Match starts at 7pm IST. PTI SSC SSC AH AH