Johannesburg: The Indian women are on the cusp of setting a rare benchmark for their male counterparts as they eye a maiden double series win on South African soil when they take on the hosts in the third Twenty20 International today.
Having won the three-match ODI series 2-1, India are currently leading the five-match T20 series 2-0. A victory on Sunday will not only ensure an unassailable lead 3-0 lead but also make Harmanpreet Kaur's team first among equals to have won two series on a single tour of South Africa. A win will also mean that the women's team have now won T20 series in both Australia and South Africa.
With the men's team also starting their T20 campaign at the same venue after the women's match, the onus will be on the Smriti Mandhanas and Mithali Rajs to set the bar high for Virat Kohli's team. The added incentive is that the series will be telecast live before the men's matches.
The women have so far put up a near flawless show in both the T20 encounters, winning by seven and nine wickets respectively. Veteran Raj, who no longer leads the side in the shortest format, has displayed her wealth of experience with successive half-centuries -- 54 no off 48 balls and 76 no off 61 balls -- bagging 'Player of the Match' on both occasions.
Left-handed batter Mandhana, after a fantastic one day series, also played her part in the second game, scoring 57 off 42 balls that had three huge sixes. The bowling unit has also performed admirably with Shikha Pandey leading the charge in the absence of an injured Jhulan Goswami. She has received able support from leg-spinner Poonam Yadav, off-break bowler Anuja Patil and all-rounder Deepti Sharma.
It will be interesting to see whether the Indian team management -- coach Tushar Arothe, skipper Harmanpreet and senior most player Mithali -- decide on playing veteran Rumeli Dhar, who will be donning national colours after a gap of six years.