The first keenly awaited ODI between India Women’s and South Africa Women’s in an elaborate limited overs series took place at Kimberly amidst widespread criticism. Much of the public outcry was owing to the fact that the contest, featuring some of the brightest names in the women’s sport, especially part of Mithali Raj’s stable contested in a duel that wasn’t even televised on any major broadcaster.
So remains the fate for the rest of the limited series. But the brightest spot at the end of the day remains to be savored by Indian fans who’d quite relish India’s 88-run victory over their Protean counterparts.
In batting first, Raj’s side notched up a competitive but modest total of 213, with the loss of 7 wickets. Anchoring the innings with great precision, dashing opener Smriti Mandhana got off to a watchful, cautious start only to implode at the latter stages in compiling a hard fought 84 off 98 balls, an innings laced by 8 boundaries and 1 massive six as South African bowlers made the tall leftie work hard for every run.
Even as India’s openers – Mandhana and Raut played patiently, seeing through early rigors till the 15th over, Raut’s would be the first wicket to fall at 55, her individual contribution 19. Mithali Raj was cautious and brilliant as ever in scoring 45 valuable runs as the third wicket stand reached the best of the game, a solid 99 as Mandhana broke through with a few breezy hits with the captain rotating the strike, looking for soft spots to go through on a pitch where accumulation of runs took precedence to acceleration.
The middle order, comprising of Harmanpreet, Veda Krishnamurthy and, Deepti Sharma were disappointing in amassing scores of 16, 2 and 6 respectively. The South Africans- vigilant and cautious on the field- made vital breakthroughs, first courtesy an excellent direct hit to get Krishnamurthy out by Marizanne Kapp and later, with opening bowler Shabnim Ismail getting a shot at the non strikers end to get send Deepti Sharma packing. The final eight overs could yield only 45 runs, speaking of the tight line and length maintained by Protean bowlers, with Ismail, Kapp and Klass accounting for 5 maidens overs.
In response, South Africans, perhaps to the utter surprise of their fans didn’t quite seem involved in the contest with the first wicket going down at the score of 13 in the 6th over. With Lizelle Lee clearly looking out of sorts- her troubles exacerbated by a fruitless stay at the wicket, 22 balls for 3, the pressure was immediately felt by number 3 batswoman Trisha Chetty and staple middle-order bat Mignon Du Preez, the duo contributing 5 and 0 respectively.
As Shikha Pandey and Poonam Yadav went about destructing the Protean top and middle order, opening bowler Jhulan Goswami seemed to be bowling with the vigour of a teenager, scalping a memorable 4 for 24, nearly completing her quota of 10 overs.
Meanwhile, South African captain Dane Van Niekerk, who had surprisingly gone wicketless, stuck it out and stitched a somewhat useful partnership with number seven bat, Marizanne Kapp for 37 runs. With South Africa’s run chase plummeting from 23-3 to 42-4 to going very quickly to 57-5, with batting ace Laura Woolvart too back in the pavilion, it was upto to Niekerk to try and add some zing to what had largely become a lost cause; her contribution in the end, 41 off 88. Leg-spinner Sune Luus added a couple of lusty strokes in her quickfire 21 as the tail was devoured by India’s experienced oldguard, Jhulan Goswami, bringing all the years of experience into play.
Heading into the next contest, it is expected that South Africa shall attempt to bounce back strongly but given the green tops assisting bowlers more than they would ever support batswomen, it might as well be another low-scoring contest.
India: 213/7 (Mandhana 84, Kapp 2/26)
South Africa: 125 all out (Niekerk 41, Goswami 4/24)