India aim for parity with South Africa after shaking off rustiness

India team celebrating a wicket. ©ICC

On Sunday (March 7), Harmanpreet Kaur, vice-captain of India, played her 100th ODI. She is only the fifth Indian woman to have played a ton of matches in the fifty-over format. The gap between her 99th and the 100th match was 487 days – she almost didn’t play an ODI as a 31-year-old; she turns 32 on March 8.

Rustiness was one of the talking points about India ahead of the series and Kaur admitted to that being a factor in the first ODI loss on Sunday.

“We didn’t get any international cricket for a year,” she said. “In any format, as a team you need to spend time on the field and get ready for any series. We’ll need some time to get into the rhythm.”

With the second ODI to be played on Tuesday, the turnaround is quite short. India will have to ensure they put up a taller score, for their bowlers to have something to work with. Kaur, who looked fluent in her 40-run knock, also cautioned batters against throwing away their wickets after getting starts. Smriti Mandhana and Deepti Sharma also got going before their stints in the middle were cut short. Only Mithali Raj carried on, scoring her 54th half century in ODIs.

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On the bowling front, Jhulan Goswami was disciplined, but couldn’t make early inroads. Two strikes towards the fag end of the game would have lifted her spirits. Debutante Monica Patel gave a good account of herself in the four overs she bowled. Though the surface had something in it for the spinners, lack of a tall score meant they couldn’t spin a web around the Protea batters.

The visitors seemed to have a near-perfect game apart from, as Sune Luus admitted, the very end where they lost two wickets in succession. Lizelle Lee reigned herself in while Laura Wolvaardt drove the bowlers around the part at the Ekana International Stadium.

In a departure from their usual tactics from their series against Pakistan, Luus wasn’t too hesitant to bowl, and brought herself on inside the 20th over. Nonkululeko Mlaba couldn’t find her rhythm when the likes of Kaur and Raj were going strong but bowled a superb last couple of overs, giving away one run, bowling a maiden and picking up two wickets – that of a set Sharma and Sushma Verma.

With just one match on the tour done, expect both the teams to go unchanged.

Squads

India: Mithali Raj (c), Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Punam Raut, Priya Punia, Yastika Bhatia, Harmanpreet Kaur (vc), D. Hemalatha, Deepti Sharma, Sushma Verma (wk), Swetha Verma (wk), Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jhulan Goswami, Mansi Joshi, Poonam Yadav, C. Prathyusha, Monica Patel

South Africa: Sune Luus (c), Ayabonga Khaka, Shabnim Ismail, Laura Wolvaardt, Trisha Chetty, Sinalo Jafta, Tasmin Britz, 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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