Bowlers’ day out in Surat as India go 1-0 up against South Africa

Deepti Sharma celebrates the fall of a wicket. © Getty Images

Deepti Sharma’s three-fer along with a valuable 43 from captain Harmanpreet Kaur helped India down South Africa in the first T20I of the five-match series at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium in Surat on Tuesday (September 24).
Having been handed her national cap, Shafali Verma became the second-youngest to play international cricket for India. A lot was expected from her, given her outings in the Women’s T20 Challenge in May.
However, Verma’s maiden stay in the middle lasted all of four balls. She mistimed a length ball towards mid-on but it was overshadowed by a terrific diving catch by Tumi Sekhukhune. Verma was walking back for a duck against her name.
The chants by the crowd at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium told you who was at the other end – Smriti Mandhana. She was yet to get into her groove, though. India had crawled to 11 runs at the end of the fourth over for the loss for a wicket.
Sekhukhune’s first ball of the match was duly despatched by Mandhana to the deep mid-wicket fence to show why the crowd was chanting her name. A ball later, she smashed one to the cover fence.
Nondumiso Shangase’s introduction wasn’t in South Africa’s favour. It was the final over of the fielding restrictions and Mandhana didn’t want to hold back. The first ball was cut past backward point while the next was belted down the track. But in a bid to take the attack on, the Indian southpaw charged down to a loopy full toss and ended up slicing it to Mignon du Preez at point. A check was made for the height of the ball and it was alright, which meant that Mandhana had to walk back for a 16-ball 21.
At that stage, India were two down for 34 at the end of the power play.
That brought Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet Kaur together. After a couple of quiet overs, they started to step on the gas – Sune Luus bore the brunt of their attack. Kaur danced down the track and deposited one over long on for half a dozen. A ball later, Rodrigues’ smash found the long on fence on the bounce. 14 runs had come off that over.
After nine overs, India were 53 for the loss of two. The duo looked to carry on the momentum and the run-scoring spree as they started to speed up the scoring. However, Rodrigues fell to Sekhukhune, holing out to long on. She was out for 19 off 25 balls.
Harmanpreet Kaur injury
Deepti Sharma walked in at five, then. Together with her skipper, she started to build the innings and get it back on track. Kaur, at the other end, had got her eye in and punished anything loose. Sharma was busy throughout her stay in the middle, giving the strike back to her captain to do the needful. The pair had added 46 in just 34 balls before Sharma attempted to sweep a slower one from Nadine de Klerk. All she managed was a glove and Lizelle Lee completed a wonderful diving effort behind the stumps. A ball later, Kaur was also sent back, getting out LBW to one that stayed low. Kaur had 43 against her name off 34 balls while Sharma scored a run-a-ball 16.
India, at that stage, had been reduced to 105 for five in 16 overs, from being three for 104.
The last five overs didn’t go as per plan for the hosts as they ended up losing their way. From looking on course to score around 150, they ended being restricted to eight for 130 – just 26 runs came in the last four overs.
Pacer Shabnim Ismail, who impressed in the warm-up clash against Board President XI on Sunday (September 22), picked up three wickets in her spell, giving away just 26.
In reply, South Africa started off on a high note. Pooja Vastrakar, making a comeback to international circuit, was wayward. She leaked 18 off the first over, including one way down the leg side that went for five wides.
Shikha Pandey, though, got the first strike, castling Lee for 16 off 11. The next over was a maiden over by Sharma, as Tazmin Brits couldn’t get off strike for the first five balls despite trying hard. The way she blocked the final ball in that over showed she held the white flag up.
The Indian off-spinner bore fruits for this as she dismissed Britts off the first ball of her next over. The South African opener’s patience had run out and she played an ugly swipe at a tossed up delivery and was bowled. Three balls later, de Klerk was out caught behind attempting to cut a slightly quicker one. That pretty much set the tone for the chase.
On bad days, the ball seems to keep following you and Vastrakar would agree to that. After her horrendous first over, she spilled a pretty straightforward chance of du Preez off Kaur. The Protea batter was on just five then. South Africa were three for 44 and it was the eighth over.
Mignon du Preez played a long hand for South Africa. © Getty Images
In the next over, the latest Arjuna awardee Poonam Yadav got two wickets in two balls. First, Laura Wolvaardt didn’t read her wrong one and then Luus was early into her shot, getting deceived in the flight. That wicket was completed by a stunning diving catch by Mandhana at short extra cover. Although the hat-trick ball was negated, the tourists had lost half their side with just 48 on the board in nine overs.
Meanwhile, Du Preez was waging a lone battle. For those who have been following South Africa for a while, they knew that the match was not over till du Preez was in the middle. And understandably, she continued to take the visitors close, despite regularly losing partners at the other end. Eventually, she got to her seventh half century in T20Is off just 35 balls.
It wasn’t all lost then, with South Africa needing 24 in 11. But Sharma bowled a very tight penultimate over and finished with three for eight off her spell – the eight runs coming off her last over. Yes, she had bowled three maiden overs in a T20 game!
Du Preez clubbed a maximum in the final over, but it was a task that was beyond her. She eventually ended with a 43-ball 59 to her name with four fours and three sixes.
India had managed to strangle South Africa, despite one of du Preez’s best efforts with the bat. Apart from Sharma, Poonam, Radha and Pandey finished with two wickets apiece.
The crowd at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium – which was to the tune of fifteen thousand – had truly got their money’s worth – an Indian win, but a fighting knock from, perhaps, the best batter from the opposition. A night to remember.
 
Brief Scores: India 130/8 in 20 overs (Harmanpreet Kaur 43, Smriti Mandhana 21; Shabnim Ismail 3/26, Nadine de Klerk 2/10) beat South Africa 119/10 in 19.5 overs (Mignon du Preez 59; Deepti Sharma 3/8, Shikha Pandey 2/18, Poonam Yadav 2/25, Radha Yadav 2/29) by 11 runs. PoM: Deepti Sharma.