A half-century from Mithali Raj underpinned a brilliant all-round batting performance from India as they easily gunned down 165 against South Africa to take a 1-0 lead in their WT20I series.
The decision was taken before the series for Raj, India’s ODI skipper, to hand over captaincy duty to Harmanpreet Kaur in the shortest format. Despite the change in role however, she still led from the front to lay the bedrock for India’s successful chase, her importance to the side underlined by Harmanpreet’s failure – who was run out for a duck as she attempted to get off the mark to the very first ball she faced..
There was able support from the rest of India’s top five. Smriti Mandhana provided the initial burst, racing to 28 off 15 balls with three fours and two sixes. India then lost two wickets in two balls, Mandhana caught by South African captain Dane van Niekerk off the bowling of Moseline Daniels followed by that Harmanpreet run out, before a combination of youth and experience saw them close to victory, Raj combining with debutant Jemimah Rodriques – at 17 years old less than half her partner’s age – to add 69.
The newcomer was far from overawed, and she outscored the legendary Raj during their partnership, her share totalling 37 from 27 balls. Her score was equalled by Veda Krishnamurthy, who struck a trio of fours and sixes to bring the game to a swift conclusion, India winning with more than an over to spare.
But impressive though it was, Krishnamurthy’s knock was far from the day’s most blistering; that honour fell to South Africa’s Chloe Tryon, who smashed 32 off just seven balls to put her side into a seemingly strong position. Her innings read four, six, six, four, dot, six, six and helped South Africa plunder 35 from the last two overs after starts from all the other batters in the top six laid a strong platform – Sune Luus’ 18 was South Africa’s lowest score, and only Nadine de Klerk scored at under a run a ball. India were indebted to T20 specialist Anuja Patil for keeping South Africa’s total within range – she took 2/23 from her four overs, dismissing top-scorer and captain van Niekerk for 38, as well as the set and dangerous Mignon du Preez for 31.
It was a strong all-round performance, and especially with the bat, for a team whose last T20I before today came in 2016. With the Women’s World T20 just seven months away, indications are that India are on track to put together a strong challenge in that tournament.