Colombo: India closed in on a berth in the ICC Women's World Cup 2017 after a 49-run win over South Africa while Sri Lanka and Bangladesh also registered notable wins in the first round of Super Six matches in the qualifiers on Wednesday.
India captain Mithali Raj starred in what was seen as a high-profile match since India and South Africa had topped their respective groups and carried a maximum of four points from the preliminary league to the second stage in which they play teams from the other preliminary group.
The top four from the Super Six qualify not only for the ICC Women's World Cup 2017 but also for the ICC Women's Championship.
India have one foot in the door with three wins but with Sri Lanka defeating Pakistan by five wickets and Bangladesh beating Ireland by seven wickets in other matches on Wednesday, there is a mathematical chance of five teams finishing at par at the end of the league.
Asked to bat first, India got off to a slow start, scoring only 14 off the first 10 overs but the complexion of the game changed once Raj came to the crease. She and opener Mona Meshram lifted the team with a fine 96-run second-wicket stand to help put up a competitive 205 for 8. Raj scored 64 off 85 balls with 10 fours and Meshram got 55 off 85 balls with five fours and two sixes.
South Africa's reply suffered some early setbacks and they were reduced to 41 for three in the 19th over as openers Lizelle Lee (1) and Laura Wolvaardt (0) as well as former captain Mignon du Preez (15) could not do much. Pace bowler Shikha Pandey and left-arm spinner Ekta Bisht, who shared the new ball, finished with four and three wickets, respectively, as South Africa folded for 156 in 46.4 overs.
Mithali said: "The win today definitely eases the pressure on us, especially for the last match of the Super League against Pakistan. It also gives us time to assess what all we are not doing right so that we can improve on those aspects in the coming matches."
Host Sri Lanka had a memorable outing as they restricted Pakistan to 212 for seven and got to the target with 16 deliveries to spare.
For Pakistan, opener Nahida Khan (64) and Javeria Khan (63) were associated in a steady 119-run stand for the second wicket. Both batters fell to pace bowler Chamari Polgampola, who along with captain and left-arm spinner Inoka Ranaweera, grabbed two wickets.
For Sri Lanka, Eshani Lokusiriyage (65 not out) and Prasadani Weerakkody (45) helped the team reach the target after openers Nipuni Hansika (37) and Chamari Athapaththu (35) set the platform with a 75-run partnership.