When Harmanpreet Kaur held her nerves and the catch at long-on, off the second last ball at Christchurch on Sunday, it seemed as if she was destined to be India’s Superwoman for the second World Cup in a row.

Five years ago, her epic 171 not out (115b) against Australia at Derby had taken India into the final. At Christchurch, she scored 48, took two wickets, and had a hand in three run-outs. Her joy – and her team-mates’ – turned into disappointment in no time as the bowler, Deepti Sharma, according to the television replays, had bowled a no-ball.

Yes, it was a close call. Mignon du Preez, who had nearly reached the dressing room after scoring a superb half-century, got a reprieve. She came back and finished the job, taking South Africa home off the final ball. That also meant the Indians would return home after finishing fifth in the table. They had to win if they wanted to reach the semifinals.

Fluctuating fortunes

The final moments of their match against South Africa summed up their journey at the World Cup. Delight was often followed by despair. A win was followed by a defeat.

Mithali Raj’s women had begun well though, registering a 107-run victory over Pakistan in their first match. They showed resilience after being reduced to 114 for six. But they were comprehensively beaten in the second match by host New Zealand. Despite a 63-ball 71 from Harmanpreet, they lost by 62 runs.

They bounced back, though, by crushing West Indies by 155 runs. Harmanpreet was among the runs again, hitting 109 off 107 balls, but that was only the innings’ second-highest score. Smriti Mandhana, the female avatar of Sourav Ganguly, had made 123 (119b).

They had put on 184 attractive runs for the fourth wicket. In terms of the pleasure they together provided, the partnership was the women’s equivalent of the delightful 318 runs added by Ganguly and Rahul Dravid for the second wicket against Sri Lanka at Taunton in the 1999 World Cup.

The successive losses to England and Australia would prove costly for the Indian women. When the match between South Africa and the West Indies was washed out, their job became even more difficult.

Even from this not-so-memorable campaign, India could take heart from the way all-rounders Pooja Vastrakar and Sneh Rana, wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh, batter Yastika Bhatia and left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad performed and Harmanpreet returned to her very best form.

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