SURAT: The first match for India women in six months, which was also the first in this format in the post-Mithali Raj era. International debut for the 15-year-old Shafali Verma. A first international match at Lalbhai Contractor Stadium.
There were many things to look forward to in the first T20I against South Africa. Adding to the list of firsts was a first victory of the year in this format for Harmanpreet Kaur & Co.
For the 10,000-plus audience at the stadium and the 1.85 lakh following this clash on Hotstar, it did not turn out to be the same old story as India beat South Africa by 11 runs. Although the show with the bat was not convincing — Harmanpreet waging a lone battle with her blade — the bowlers came back to defend a small target of 131.
Coming off a successful Kia Super League stint in England, off-spinning all-rounder Deepti Sharma starred with the ball with three wickets for eight runs. She also bowled three maidens to choke the South African batting line-up.
Not many teams have as poor a record as India’s when it comes to home matches. Since 2015, they have won only six of the 14 T20Is played in India, with three of them coming against Sri Lanka. On Tuesday, they decided to buck the trend.
After posting 130/8, the bowlers were on the money from the word go. South Africa opener Lizelle Lee hit four boundaries in the first 11 balls before Shikha Pandey’s trademark in-swinger sent her back. Then Deepti, who can extract turn on flat pitches, dealt the visitors a double blow. With South Africa 29/3 after five overs, India was back in the game.
The hosts further strengthened their grip on the outcome of the clash when Poonam Yadav removed Laura Wolvaardt (14) and captain Sune Luus (0) with successive deliveries in the ninth over. It was all but over for South Africa.
Earlier, making her maiden international appearance, Shafali was out for a four-ball duck. Though opener Smriti Mandhana started on a positive note and hit four boundaries in her 16-ball 21, she was dismissed by off-spinner Nodumiso Shangase in the sixth over.
Jemimah Rodrigues made 19 off 25 balls, but India was found waiting soon after. Harmanpreet and Deepti steadied the ship with a 46-run partnership for the fourth wicket. After 15 overs, they were 102/3 with Harmanpreet on 42. Having struck two huge sixes and three fours, the 30-year-old looked threatening every ball.
Just when things were beginning to fall in place, India folded like a pack of cards. In three deliveries, India lost Deepti for a run-a-ball 16 and the skipper for 43. From 102/3, they lost five wickets for 23 runs with pacer Shabnam Ismail taking three.
But it didn’t matter as the bowlers stepped up to the challenge. In the end, it was India bowlers 1 South Africa 0.
Brief scores: India 130/8 in 20 overs (Harmanpreet 43; Ismail 3/26, De Klerk 2/10) bt South Africa 119 in 19.5 overs (Du Preez 59, Deepti 3/8, Poonam 2/25, Radha 2/29).