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Wolvaardt, Luus fightback as South Africa stretch one-off Test to final day against India

Chennai, June 30, 2024
South African batters demonstrated exceptional mental resilience, fighting back against a formidable Indian bowling attack to stay in the game as they finished the third Day of one-off women’s Test against India at 232 for 2 at M A Chidambaram Stadium on Sunday.

After being put on the back foot, South Africa showcased their tenacity, cutting down the deficit and setting up an intriguing final day.

After the historic innings, India declared their first essay at a mammoth 603 for 6, placing immense pressure on South Africa. The visitors, however, showed remarkable grit in their first innings, thanks to Sune Luus and Marizanne Kapp. On the second day, their partnership held firm, helping South Africa reach 236 for 4 at stumps. Yet, on Sunday morning, Sneh Rana’s sensational spin bowling turned the game on its head.

Rana, exploiting the turn and bounce from the pitch, decimated the South African lineup, adding five more wickets to her tally from the previous day. She finished with figures of 8 for 85, orchestrating a collapse that saw South Africa lose six wickets for just 30 runs to bowled out for 266.

Rana’s first breakthrough of the day came when she dismissed a well-set Kapp for 74 with a delivery that pitched on off and middle, taking the top of off stump. This triggered a rapid downfall, with South Africa losing wickets in quick succession.

India enforced the follow-on with a significant lead of 337 runs, putting South Africa under immense pressure. They faced an early setback when Deepti Sharma trapped Anneke Bosch lbw in the first over. However, South Africa’s fighting spirit shone through as Laura Wolvaardt and Sune Luus stitched together a monumental partnership.

At lunch, they were 29 for 1, and what followed was a masterclass in resilience and skill.

The duo batted through 66 overs across the second and third sessions, building a 190-run stand—the highest partnership for any wicket in South African women’s Test history. Wolvaardt, using the depth of the crease effectively, and Luus, who carried her first-innings form, blunted the Indian attack with solid defense and precise shot selection.

At tea, South Africa were 124 for 1, with Luus on 64 off 121 balls, playing positively and punishing loose deliveries.

India’s bowlers toiled hard to break the stand, with captain Harmanpreet Kaur employing as many as seven bowlers. Despite their efforts, they struggled with consistency in lengths and speeds. Fatigue also seemed to set in, as evidenced by Deepti Sharma dropping two catches off Kapp late in the day.

As the day wore on, the pitch slowed, and the South African pair grew more accustomed to the low bounce. Luus, after 234 minutes on the field, reached her maiden Test hundred, becoming only the second South African woman to score a century in India.

Her celebration—a rocking baby cradle gesture—was a tribute to the team’s strength and conditioning coach Zane Webster, who is expecting a child.

Harmanpreet Kaur eventually broke the stand, dismissing Luus for 101 with a delivery that stayed low. Wolvaardt, unbeaten on 93, continued to march on with Kapp at the other end, giving South Africa hope of taking a lead on the final day—a scenario that seemed improbable at the start of Sunday.

For India, the absence of Jemimah Rodrigues, who was off the field for much of the last two sessions due to cramps, was a notable setback.

Brief scores:

India 603/6 decl in 115.1 overs (Shafali Verma 205, Smriti Mandhana 149; Delhi Tucker 2-141, Tumi Sekhukhune 1-70) lead South Africa 266/10 & following-on 232/2 in 88 overs (Sune Luus 109 not out, Laura Wolvaardt 93; Harmanpreet Kaur 1-24, Deepti Sharma 1-56) by 105 runs.(Agency)

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