The White Ferns have finished off an impressive series sweep over India with another thrilling victory in the third and final Twenty20 at Seddon Park in Hamilton.
Once again, the game came down to the final ball, and this time Leigh Kasperek's winning contribution came with the ball rather than the bat – restricting India's Mithali Raj to just a single when she needed a boundary for victory.
That secured a 3-0 series triumph which seemed unlikely after India had looked potent during their ODI series victory. However, after some unimpressive batting displays during that series, the White Ferns stepped up in the shorter format, and notched a challenging 161-7 batting first this afternoon.
Sophie Devine was the star for the White Ferns, blasting 72 from 52 balls at the top of the order. The powerful all-rounder struck eight fours and two sixes in her knock, and put together handy partnerships with Suzie Bates (24 from 18 balls) and the promoted Hannah Rowe (12 from nine).
The best stand was with captain Amy Satterthwaite though, with the pair adding 71 for the third wicket as the skipper contributed 31 from 23 balls. At one point, a score closer to 180 looked on the cards, but some decent death bowling from the visitors ensured that boundaries were at a premium in the final overs, and the Ferns had to settle at 161.
It didn't look like enough when Indian superstar Smriti Mandhana shone once again. Her contributions on this tour have been immense – smashing 105 and 90 in the first two ODIs, then carving 58 and 36 in the first two Twenty20s.
Today's effort was her most devastating knock yet, smoking 86 from 62 balls as India cruised through to 91-2 at the halfway point of their chase. She struggled for support though, and with Amelia Kerr (1-26) and Devine (2-21) exceptionally economical in their four overs apiece, the required run rate crept back up.
When Devine finally claimed the massive scalp of Mandhana, India needed 39 runs from 27 balls, and a partnership between Raj and Deepti Sharma only got them within 16 with one over remaining.
Kasperek was tasked with being the hero again, and while her first three balls went for nine runs, she held her nerve, denying a boundary off the final ball to seal a deserved series sweep.
Devine paid credit to her teammates' resolve when it looked like the contest might have got away from them.
"It was actually pretty tough going. When Smriti came out she actually made it look pretty easy. Credit to them and credit to the girls for sticking with it. I think we saw in the first game how quickly a Twenty20 match can change so we knew we just needed to stick with it. Another great contest with the Indian side."
The White Ferns now prepare for a three-match ODI series in Australia, which begins next Friday, with bowler Rosemary Mair the new face in the 14-strong squad. Coach Haidee Tiffen is confident in producing some strong performances.
"For us, it's about working through the ups and downs of ODI cricket – the hunger and desire is there to step up against Aussie in their own backyard."