Set to chase 245, India had all but lost its way after a flurry of wickets but Kaur kept her cool to score the nine runs required off the last over from pace bowler Marcia Letsoala.
India stand-in captain Harmanpreet Kaur: “To be honest, I was waiting for that ball because that is my strong area. I know like we needed nine runs in the final over and I was going to hit the ball. If we run then we will go for two runs. My partner also did a great job and ran two runs. It was a totally team effort from our side.”
Earlier, India’s reply had started slowly and it was 20 for one in 7.3 overs before opener Mona Meshram and left-hander Deepti Sharma added 124 runs in the next 25 overs to raise the team’s hopes. Meshram struck 59 off 82 balls with seven fours and one six while Sharma knocked up 71 off 89 balls with eight fours.
However, their departure in successive overs put India behind in the chase once again. Veda Krishnamurthy chipped in with 31 but India was losing wickets regularly before Kaur turned the tables with her run-a-ball 41 in which she hit two fours and the decisive six.
It was a creditable win because India was without captain and star batter Mithali Raj due to a hamstring pull suffered during the previous match against Pakistan, while already missing pace bowler Jhulan Goswami and opener Smriti Mandhana due to injuries ahead of the tournament.
India had gone into the match with a slight edge as it had beaten South Africa by 49 runs in a Super Six match and possessed a battery of slow bowlers who had looked capable of bothering the opposition but South Africa had seized the initiative early on with some fine batting.
South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk had said on the eve of the match that her team would play positively against the spinners and just about each of the team’s batter did that, showing fine footwork to negate India’s spin dependence and with only one pace bowler in Shikha Pandey in the playing eleven.
Openers Lizelle Lee (37) and Laura Wolvaardt (21) added 51 runs in 10 overs to put South Africa on road to a big total even as the Indian bowlers struggled to slow the flow of runs. Lee was quick to despatch anything loose over the infield, smashing three fours and three sixes off 31 balls.Mignon du Preez (40), van Niekerk (37) and Sune Luus (35) all found ways to counter the Ekta Bisht-led spin attack.
South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk: “Even though they had a partnership going, we always knew they were in fours and at one stage they needed even six an over. We were in the driving seat, but India are a quality team and the experience of Harmanpreet Kaur coming in….. they showed it today.
“It was a really good score and we were really happy. But if we had somebody who went on like Deepti to score 70-odd, would have made life a lot easier and probably an extra 20 runs to work with.”
India and South Africa, along with Sri Lanka and Pakistan, have qualified for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 in which they will join Australia, England, New Zealand and the West Indies. The four top teams from the tournament also made the ICC Women’s Championship while the top six – Ireland and Bangladesh being the other two teams – are assured of ODI status for the next four-year cycle.
Scores in brief:
India beat South Africa by one run
South Africa 244 all out in 49.4 overs (Mignon du Preez 40, Lizelle Lee 37, Dane van Niekerk 37, Sune Luus 35, Rajeshwari Gayakwad 3-51, Shikha Pandey 2-41).
India 245-9 in 50 overs (Deepti Sharma 71, Mona Meshram 59, Harmanpreet Kaur 41 not out, Veda Krishnamurthy 31, Marizanne Kapp 2-36, Aiyabonga Khaka 2-55).
Player of the series: Sune Luus (South Africa)
Player of the match: Deepti Sharma (India)