Team India started their South Africa series with a rather forgettable defeat where not only their batting department but bowling department too failed miserably in the first ODI at the Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on March 7. Both the team will play their second game on March 9.

While South Africa came from a successful series against Pakistan, India played their first game after more than a year – 487 days. They had last featured in international cricket in the final of the ICC T20 World Cup in 2020 where they lost to Australia. As far as domestic cricket is concerned, they had played a four-match Women’s T20 Challenge last year in November during the IPL playoffs in the UAE. 

Due to the absence from the action for a long time, many have thought about the rustiness in Team India. But both captain Mithali Raj and the vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur stressed the fact that there’s no rustiness ahead of the series. However, their performance didn’t justify their words where apart from Harmanpreet Kaur no one looked comfortable while scoring quickly.

“We didn’t get any international cricket for a year, we just played three IPL games. But other than that, we didn’t get any time as a unit. You need to get ready as a unit and spend some together on the field. We are one of the sides that like to learn from our mistakes. We want to learn from our mistakes and prove ourselves,” Harmanpreet Kaur said at the post-match press conference.

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“When you’re playing after a long time, there are chances that you can collapse. They also bowled well and we were also just giving our wickets away. We need to be pricey with our wickets and should not give them away so easily. From the next game, we will look at these things and create some partnerships. In the long format, you need those partnerships,” she further added.

Not only Kaur but Raj too said the same in her post-match interaction with broadcaster Anjum Chopra, where she admitted the need for game time in developing confidence going into a series as well. “It seems like the batters were in good form,” Raj said. “(A) Few of them got starts but couldn’t convert. The bowlers need to be more consistent with lines and lengths, maybe they weren’t consistent because they’re coming back after a long break. A lot goes into game time. If you play games, it shows in your confidence.”

Opener Smriti Mandhana started in a great fashion but she failed to carry that forward. She started with a few fours whereas her opening partner Jemimah Rodrigues struggled in the middle and got out for an 11-ball 1. One-down Punam Raut then got out for a 29-ball 10. Mithali Raj top-scored with a steady 50. her 54th ODI half-century at No. 4.

Kaur joined her when India were 40 for 3 in the 14th over and the duo added a 62-run stand off 72 deliveries, but Kaur gout out for 40. However, it was Kaur who showed the intent to score a bit quickly but the failure of the top-order to accelerate the innings somehow cost them the game. However, in the second ODI, they will certainly look forward to working on the partnerships.

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As far as the bowling department is concerned, veteran Jhulan Goswami, despite started well, failed to take early wickets. Although she claimed two wickets later, it didn’t trouble the visitors as they have already reached near to tea target by then. Debutant Monica Patel too got 4 overs but lack of experience cost her.

Meanwhile, the spin trio of India – Poonam Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Deepti Sharma alongside Harmanpreet Kaur tried their best but a small total didn’t allow them to go on their way to restrict batters.

As far as the visitors are concerned, it was a near-perfect show for them. They won the toss and chose to field first and since then they didn’t allow the Indian batters to settle in the middle. Although Shabnim Ismail struggled to find her form at first, she returned with 3/28. Alongside her, Nonkululeko Mlaba too struggled but did well in her second spell. 

While the bowlers were successful to restrict India within a below-par, It was the opening pair of Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt who took the game completely away from the host. They stitched a record 169-stand and sealed the deal with 559 balls to spare. Going into the second ODI, the visitors are likely to stick to their winning combination whereas India might bring some changes in their playing XI.

Squads:

India: 

Mithali Raj (Captain), Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Punam Raut, Priya Punia, Yastika Bhatia, Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Dayalan Hemalatha, Deepti Sharma, Sushma Verma (wicket-keeper), Swetha Verma (wicket-keeper), Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jhulan Goswami, Mansi Joshi, Poonam Yadav, Challuru Prathyusha, Monica Patel

South Africa: 

Sune Luus (Captain), Ayabonga Khaka, Shabnim Ismail, Laura Wolvaardt, Trisha Chetty, Sinalo Jafta, Tazmin Brits, Marizanne Kapp, Nondumiso Shangase, Lizelle Lee, Anneke Bosch, Faye Tunnicliffe, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Mignon du Preez, Nadine de Klerk, Lara Goodall, Tumi Sekhukhune

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