Bowlers, Lee-Wolvaardt partnership hand India a drubbing in ODI series opener

Laura Wolvaardt, Shabnim Ismail were the two star performers © Cricket South Africa

Allround bowling performance and a domineering opening partnership between Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt helped game-ready South Africa hand a rusty-looking India an eight-wicket drubbing in the first ODI of the five-match series at the Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on Sunday (March 7).

In the chase, South Africa got off to a solid start with a flurry of boundaries as India’s opening bowlers provided them width. Wolvaardt caressed debutant Monica Patel with her trademark cover drives while Lee punished the short deliveries with power.

Raj brought in the spinners in the eighth over and although they bowled a couple of tight overs, the boundaries didn’t stop as the South Africa openers took them on without any difficulty. Lee swept Deepti Sharma for consecutive boundaries in the 13th over as the visitors went past fifty without any loss of wickets.

Introduction of Poonam Yadav didn’t bring any change of fortune for India as the duo stayed on the back foot and played her from the crease. Lee and Wolvaardt broke the record for the highest partnership for South Africa against India in the format and then went on to bring up their 100-run partnership along with Wolvaardt’s 18th fifty in the 26th over.

Meanwhile, Lee at the other end also went past her fifty when she smashed Sharma for a six over long-off and then followed it up with another boundary. Records started to tumble as they went on to break the highest opening partnership for India in ODIs when they reached 141 in the 34th over.

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None of the Indian bowlers could get through the right-handed pair as they piled up boundaries after boundaries leaving India chasing the leather on a hot afternoon in Lucknow. Although Jhulan Goswami eventually broke the 169-run partnership in the 38th over, it was too little too late. Goswami then picked up Sune Luus when the scores were levelled before the win came a through wide by Harmanpeet Kaur in the 41st over.

Earlier, put into bat, India opener Smriti Mandhana showed no sign of rustiness despite having played only one ODI in the last two years and started off confidently with a trademark drive through cover in the first ball she faced. She then pulled Shabnim Ismail for a four and then added another boundary in the next over off Marizanne Kapp.

However, Mandhana’s short stay at the crease came to an end when she nicked a wide one to the wicket-keeper for 14 while trying to go for a cut-off Ayabonga Khaka. In the next over, India lost another wicket when Jemimah Rodrigues edged Kapp to gully for a solitary run. Mithali Raj opened her innings with a confident drive for four but soon lost a struggling Punam Raut at the other end as India were reduced to 40 for 3.

That brought Kaur to the crease and she looked the most fluent of all the batters. The experienced duo of Kaur and Raj added 62 runs for the fourth wicket. Kaur first punched Kapp for a four off the back foot before cutting Nonkululeko Mlaba for another one and then added a couple of fours off Nadine de Klerk. Just as Kaur was looking good for a big one, she hit one straight to long-on off Luus for a well-made 41-ball 40.

Raj at the other end was getting into her groove as she used the depth of the crease or came down the track against the spinners to manipulate the field. She smashed Mlaba for the first six of the match before bringing up her fifty from 84 balls. After Raj and Sharma added 52 runs partnership for the fifth-wicket, they lost both the set batters in consecutive overs with Ismail taking out India skipper and Mlaba accounting for Sharma.

From there, Indian innings fell away as they lost four wickets for six runs and succumbed to 177 for 9 in their 50 overs from 154 for 4.

For South Africa, Ismail was the most successful bowler with figures of 3 for 28, while Mlaba took two wickets.

Brief Scores: India 177/9 in 50 overs (Mithali Raj 50, Harmanpreet Kaur 40; Shabnim Ismail 3/28, Nonkululeko Mlaba 2/41) lost to South Africa 178/2 in 40.1 overs (Lizelle Lee 83*, Laura Wolvaardt 80) by eight wickets. POTM: Shabnim Ismail