India Women had not played a single Twenty20 International in 2017, but showed no signs of rustiness as they registered a seven-wicket win over South Africa Women in the first of the five-match T20I series at Senwes Park, Potchefstroom on Tuesday (February 13).
The triumph also meant that India recorded their first T20I victory against a side in non-subcontinental conditions under Harmanpreet Kaur’s captaincy. It was also the highest total ever chased by India in T20Is.
India’s success was largely orchestrated by Mithali Raj’s unbeaten fifty and useful contributions from Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues and Veda Krishnamurthy.
Chasing South Africa’s 164 for 4, Mandhana and Mithali Raj, the openers, gave India a breezy start adding 47 runs for the opening wicket. Mandhana took on Marizanne Kapp, the medium pacer, smacking two fours and a six in the first over of the chase.
Mandhana’s onslaught continued before Moseline Daniels, the left-arm pacer, had her caught by Dane Van Niekerk after a quickfire 28 of just 15 balls. Soon after, Harmanpreet followed after being run out by Sune Luus for nought.
Despite the twin blows, Raj and Rodrigues, the debutant, kept the run-rate up as India reached 90 for 2 by the halfway mark.
Raj anchored the innings with an unbeaten 54 off 48 balls. She stitched 69 runs with Rodrigues for the third wicket before Van Niekerk prised out the latter, and then added 52 runs for the fourth wicket with Krishnamurthy.
At the other end, there was no show of nervousness from Rodrigues, who marked her first international game with a fine 37 off 27 deliveries. Facing Ayabonga Khaka, the medium pacer, she got off the mark with a boundary and then struck two more fours in the same over to get her innings underway.
India’s final overs assault came from Krishnamurthy as she unleashed a flurry of boundaries in her 22-ball 37. Her knock contained three fours and as many sixes as India overhauled the target in 18.5 overs to go 1-0 up.
Earlier, put into bat, Lizelle Lee (19) and Dane Van Niekerk (38 off 31 balls) got their side off to a steady start before Shikha Pandey, the medium pacer, dismissed Lee.
In at No.3, Sune Luus scored a run-a-ball 18 and added 36 runs for the second wicket with Niekerk, before falling to Pooja Vastrakar, the medium pacer, who played instead of an injured Jhulan Goswami.
Niekerk was the next to go after being castled by Anuja Patil, the offspinner. Her knock was studded with five hits to the fence and a six.
With the scorecard reading 84 for 3 after Niekerk’s dismissal, Mignon du Preez (31 off 27 balls) and found an able ally in Nadine de Klerk (23 n.o. off 25 balls) as the duo added 46 runs for the fourth wicket.
The hosts lost Du Preez in the 19th over to Anuja Patil, but the platform had been set for Chloe Tryon, who blitzed a seven-ball 32. With De Klerk holding fort at one end, the allrounder provided the fireworks slamming three sixes and two fours off Pandey in the last over to help the side finish with a competitive 164 for 4.
Anuja was the pick of the bowlers with 2 for 23 while Vastrakar and Pandey, the pacers, picked up a wicket each.
The second T20I will be played at Buffalo Park in East London on February 16.
Brief scores: South Africa Women 164 for 4 in 20 overs (Dane van Niekerk 38, Mignon du Preez 31, Chloe Tryon 32 n.o.; Anuja Patil 2-23) lost to India Women 168 for 3 in 18.5 overs (Mithali Raj 54 n.o., Smriti Mandhana 28, Jemimah Rodrigues 37, Veda Krishnamurthy 37 n.o.) by seven wickets.