Similar issues grapple India and South Africa as they look to go 2-1 up in the series

Monica Patel (third from right) with the Indian team. © BCCI

1-1

Tosses won – one, matches won – one.

India and South Africa played two one-sided matches to level the series at 1-1 at the Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow in the first two ODIs and both sides will be looking to take the lead when they face each other again in the third ODI on Friday (March 12).

Both matches panned out in a similar fashion despite them being played in two different wickets, the side that won the toss elected to field on what looked like a good batting surface and made early inroads with pace bowlers getting some assistance with the 9 am IST starts. Then the side batting first had a big partnership followed by a collapse to end with a moderate total. Strike bowlers Shabnim Ismail and Jhulan Goswami starred with the ball for the respective sides and in the chase one big-partnership was enough to seal the deal. For South Africa, it was the opening pair of Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt who did the job, while for India Smriti Mandhana and Punam Raut romped home without much discomfort.

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After the first match, it seemed like India have all sort of issues to solve, some of it was put down to the rustiness of coming back to international cricket after a gap of almost a year, but they were sharper and game-ready in the second match and with South Africa facing similar issues in the nine-wicket loss, the series is on an even keel at all counts.

Toss could still play a factor in the third ODI if the pacers continue to exploit whatever little that’s there in the early part of the day. Batting second seems to get easy as Ismail, who had a great first match, and other bowlers were dealt easily by the Indian batters in the match on Tuesday (March 9). Huge wins could mean middle-orders of both sides are still untested while batting second.

For India, Mandhana looked in pristine form throughout the series so far despite getting dismissed early in the first ODI. Her partner Jemimah Rodrigues on the other hand struggled to get going and has two single-digit scores next to her name. With Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur not showing any sign of rustiness in the first game despite India getting bowled out for 177 and Raut scoring runs in the second, India might be better placed as a batting unit than South Africa, which had only Lara Goodall and Sune Luus to some extent with a noteworthy performance during their 157 all out in the second match. For the visitors, Wolvaardt has been the best batter on show, while Lee showed how dangerous she can be when she gets going in the opening encounter.

Skipper Luus talked about the difficulty of facing someone as tall as Goswami and how they have to adapt to her bowling to make sure she doesn’t repeat her player of the match heroics of 4 for 42 from the second match.

“She’s a lot taller than most women we play against. You have got to play her like you play a length of a man. She bowls the ball from a very high end, so the ball will automatically get more bounce and it sneaks on you,” Luus said at the post-match media interaction on Tuesday.

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38-year-old- Goswami continues to be India’s potent weapon as she combined well with Mansi Joshi, who was making a comeback, to set up India’s nine-wicket win. Lack of assistance for spinners could be a concern for both sides, especially India with Poonam Yadav and Deepti Sharma not being able to a take single wicket in the series so far. Nonkululeko Mlaba, South Africa’s young left-arm spinner, was ineffective for most parts in the first ODI but came back strongly in the last two overs to finish with figures of 2 for 42. But in the second ODI, with Mandhana and Raut going after her, she struggled to find her bearings. Luus also struggled with her lengths and had difficulty in landing the ball.

Both teams are unlikely to make any drastic changes to their XIs and are expected to go with the same combinations. With the series levelled 1-1 and with the pitch likely to play the same, both teams have all to play for in the third ODI. Considering it’s a five-match series, a loss may not be a defining point of the series, but both sides will be keen to get that lead.

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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