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Riding high on confidence, India will look to extend their winning streak and confirm its place in the semi-finals of the ongoing ICC Women's World Cup when they will take on South Africa in their fifth round-robin match at the Grace Road Cricket Stadium, here on Saturday.
South Africa is the only team to have beaten India in the latter's last 21 encounters. It came during the league stages of the Quadrangular Series in Potchefstroom earlier this year, and that was one of the five games that the two sides have played against each other in 2017. There is no surprise element left, and both the captains agreed that it will boil down to which of the two teams executes their plan better.
Indian spinners have been the talking point of this tournament, but the same cannot be said about its pace bowling or fielding. But it is their top-order batting that needs to come to the party if India is to fancy its chances of beating South Africa and confirm a place in the semifinal.
With the team having played 359 dot balls against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Mithali Raj admitted that the top-order needs to show more intent to take the score past 250.
South Africa, on the other, hand is wounded after allowing England to make 373 in its previous game. Dane van Niekerk said that bowlers are "hurt" but she is excited to see how they respond.
The opening pair of Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt has set the tempo, playing a big role in South Africa becoming the first team ever in the history of Women's ODIs to post a 300-plus total while chasing. They eventually ended on the losing side, but the team takes a lot of confidence from that game.
India, who will be playing here for the first time in this tournament, just need to look at the history of the venue for some inspiration. It was here in 2006 against England that it saved the Test with just two wickets in hand.
It carried that momentum to win the game in Taunton and record India's first-ever Test series victory in England. Raj and Jhulan Goswami are the only surviving members from that squad, while Hemalata Kala is one of the travelling selectors.
The Indian eves have won all of their four matches, so far, against Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and hosts England, and are second in the eight-team table with eight points.
Australia also have eight points but they are at the top because of a better net run rate. The win today will help India move closer to a semi-final berth.
Going into the match, there are some facts about the two teams:
• India have won all three of their encounters with South Africa in the World Cup.
• India have claimed victories in 21 of their last 22 ODI matches (L1); that sole defeat did come against South Africa however (May 17).
• Despite losing against England in their previous match, South Africa produced the highest ever ODI total by a chasing side (305/9)
• Mithali Raj (India) needs 41 runs to reach 6,000 in ODI cricket; she'll become the first player to ever record that many.
• Poonam Raut's 70 off 92 balls helped India claim an eight-wicket win over South Africa in their last encounter (May 21).
India Women (From): Punam Raut, Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma, Mithali Raj(c), Jhulan Goswami, Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Sushma Verma(w), Mansi Joshi, Ekta Bisht, Poonam Yadav, Nuzhat Parween, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shikha Pandey, Mona Meshram.
South Africa Women (From): Laura Wolvaardt, Lizelle Lee, Trisha Chetty(w), Mignon du Preez, Dane van Niekerk(c), Chloe Tryon, Marizanne Kapp, Sune Luus, Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka, Moseline Daniels, Masabata Klaas, Nadine de Klerk, Raisibe Ntozakhe, Odine Kirsten.
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