India lost by three wickets against South Africa in their must-win final league game to crash out of the Women's World Cup. Shafali Verma, Smriti Mandhana and skipper Mithali Raj (68) struck half-centuries and set the platform for India to reach a competitive 274 for seven against South Africa at the Hagley Oval after opting to bat. But former captain Mignon du Preez’ heroic effort in the final over saw the Proteas sail through in the very last ball. The match went down to the wire with South Africa needing seven runs in the last over. It was only the second time in a women’s World Cup that a team has reached the target in the very last ball of the innings. India's loss meant West Indies joined Australia, South Africa and England in the semifinals with Mithali Raj's side finishing fifth.
Shafali (53 off 46) and Smriti (71 off 84) shared a 91-run stand off 90 balls for the opening wicket to provide the start India were looking for. South Africa chased down the target in the final ball with Laura Wolvaardt (80), Mignon du Preez (52 not out) and Lara Goodall (49) scoring the bulk of the runs.
India had put up a respectable total on board, but missed the Jhulan Goswami, who picked up a side strain and had to sit out the crucial match. Indian spinners held reigns on South Africa for most of the match, thus taking it right to the wire. 20 was needed off the last three, 14 off the last two and six off the final over. After a middle-order wobble, South Africa looked composed as they worked their way through singles and putting away the odd boundary when the opportunity presented itself. Du Preez was the architect of the chase, holding her nerve even as the pressure mounted on the Proteas at times.
There was much drama in the final over when needing three of the last two, Du Preez holed one out to Harmanpreet Kaur at long-on off Deepti Sharma's bowling. The Indians were in jubilation with the scoreboard showing that South Africa needed 3 off the last ball, when the third umpire called the delivery a no-ball. Deepti Sharma had overstepped ever so slightly and a crestfallen Indian side had to pick themselves up to get on with the match. With just two needed off two, Ismail took a single of the penultimate ball and Du Preez finished things off in the final delivery to maintain South Africa's unbeaten record while chasing to 16 games.
Both teams wore their heart on their sleeves, but it will be known as the match of the no-ball and a big story of 'what-if'. It was a celebration of cricket, packing everything from great displays of batting, bowling, fielding and sportsmanship, but it ends in heartbreak for India yet again at biggest stage in Women's cricket.