With an unbeaten half-century, Mithali Raj (54* off 48) took India Women to a convincing seven-wicket win over Proteas Women in the first T20I at the Senwes Park, Potchefstroom. While the opener held one end up, Smriti Mandhana (28 off 15), debutant Jemimah Rodrigues (37 off 27) and Veda Krishnamurthy (37* off 22) partnered her in overhauling the 165-run chase with quick-fire knocks.
Debutant Pooja Vastrakar bowled a quiet first over after Harmanpreet Kaur elected to field in the first of the five-match series. However, L Lee took on Shikha Pandey in the next to garner 11 runs to set the momentum for the innings.
The SA skipper was the next to be dismissed; trapped lbw by Anuja Patil leaving SA on 84 for three in the 12th over. M du Preez and N de Klerk then worked to add to the flow of runs. While the Indian bowlers had done well to keep the flow of runs in check the duo had taken the Proteas Women to 130 when du Preez was sent back for 31 by Patil with Krishnamurthy taking a good running catch. With nine balls left in the innings, C Tryon came to the crease and smashed 32 off seven balls to pose India a competitive target. After hitting Patil for a boundary and six over long-on, she slammed Pandey for two sixes and two boundaries in the last over to help SA to 164 for four.
While Pandey had conceded 23 runs off the last over, Smriti Mandhana minimised the last over’s impact by clobbering M Kapp in the first over of the Indian innings. Mithali Raj collected a boundary off the first ball through slips, and the left-hand bat plucked two fours and a six to help India to 20 runs off the first over. Couple of sedate overs later, the duo collected 17 off Ismail to maintain the upper-hand.
However, with the visitors on 47, they lost two wickets in succession in the fifth over. While Mandhana perished handing a catch to van Neikerk in the cover region, Harmanpreet was run out off the next delivery. Rodrigues then joined Mithali in rebuilding the innings. They had taken India to 116 when the debutant was sent back by van Neikerk. Veda Krishnamurthy then joined the opener in the middle.
While Mithali continued to anchor the innings, the middle-order bat took on the bowlers from the word go. She attacked Ntozakhe to pick 16 off the over to close in on the target. As they attacked, Mithali brought up her 11th T20I half-century. With India in the driver’s seat, Krishnamurthy then lofted Tryon for six to take India to the target with seven balls to spare.
Brief scorecard: SA 164/4 in 20 overs (D van Neikerk 38, M du Preez 31, A Patil 2/23) lost to India 168/3 in 18.5 overs (M Raj 54*, V Krishnamurthy 37*, J Rodrigues 37, S Mandhana 28) by seven wickets.