She didn’t have the best of times with the bat in the T20I series. In the four matches she played, her scores read 19, 33, 7, 0. However, the lack of runs didn’t seem to deter her. Or the cheery, bubbly girl didn’t show it.
On Wednesday (October 9), the sparse crowd at the Reliance Cricket Ground in Vadodara and South Africa got to see her class and effect as Jemimah Rodrigues’ second ODI half-century combined with Priya Punia’s maiden undefeated fifty, after Jhulan Goswami’s three-fer earlier in the game, helped India beat South Africa by eight wickets with 44 balls to spare in the first ODI.
Chasing a meagre 165 for a win, Rodrigues, alongside Punia, the debutante, went about scoring runs at a leisurely pace. The Protea attack was good in bits, but Rodrigues’ patience stood out. This, after she struggled to find the gaps with her cut shots early in the innings.
Her progress meant that Punia could ease into international cricket freely. She was helped by Marizanne Kapp, who put down the simplest of chances, after a flick off Tumi Sekhukhune found her at mid-wicket.
Rodrigues crossed her fifty in 62 balls and the opening partnership ended when she missed a sweep and was trapped LBW by South Africa’s debutante, Nondumiso Shangase, the off-spinner. Rodrigues had 55 runs to show in the 65 balls she faced as the wicket fell with India’s score on 83.
Soon Punam Raut joined forces with Punia and kept the scoreboard ticking. Punia became the seventh Indian to score a half century on debut when she drove Nadine de Klerk through covers for one. The former then fell for 16, with India 37 runs away from a win.
However, Mithali Raj combined forces with Punia to seal the deal. The pair moved slowly towards the target and finished with an unbeaten stand of 37 off 59 balls. Punia finished unbeaten on 75 off 124 balls – the fourth-highest total by an Indian on debut.
Earlier, electing to bat, South Africa got off to the worst-possible start. Jhulan Goswami got the first ball of the match to move in after landing it outside off. Lizelle Lee, based on the initial line, chose to leave it, but the ball came in and struck her in front of the stumps. Lee was walking back for a first-ball duck.
Trisha Chetty, making a comeback into the side, then joined Laura Wolvaardt as they set about rebuilding the innings. Chetty looked like she was coming into her own, hitting two fours off Goswami’s fourth over – despite one being almost a return catch.
Ekta Bisht, the left-arm spinner, then came into the attack and got rid of Chetty (14) , courtesy some swift glovework by Taniya Bhatia. Mignon du Preez’s stint in the middle was like a movie you longed for after watching the trailer – full of class but very short-lived – a run-a-ball 16. After hitting Bisht for a couple of fours, she was deceived in the flight to get stumped.
At that point – three down for 56 towards the end of the 12th over – it seemed that the familiar spin failings of South Africa were coming to the fore.
That fact was asserted when Deepti Sharma, the off-spinner, bowled a dream delivery – the one that pitches outside off, grips and turns, beats the inside edge of the bat that is there on the drive and crashes into the stumps. Wolvaardt’s slow innings of 39 from 62 balls had come to an end.
From that point, it was a familiar tale, as the middle order put in a loose performance. Marizanne Kapp, on a comeback trail, held fort with a 64-ball 54, being the last one dismissed. It was her eighth half century in ODIs and her first against India.
For the hosts, the spinners and pacers picked five wickets each among them. Goswami stood out with a three-fer while Shikha Pandey, Poonam Yadav and Bisht got two apiece.
Brief Scores: South Africa 164 all out in 45.1 overs (Marizanne Kapp 54, Laura Wolvaardt 39; Jhulan Goswami 3-33) lost to India 165/2 in 41.4 overs (Priya Punia 75*, Jemimah Rodrigues 55) by eight wickets. PoM: Priya Punia