Playing their first international match in nearly a year, the Women in Blue fell to an embarrassing 8 wickets defeat against the South African Women in the first ODI in Lucknow. The rustiness of Indians was on full display, as they failed miserably to even put up a fight against much more confident South African women.
Having been sent into bat, the Indians somehow managed to scamper to a below par total of 177 for the loss of nine wickets. Though Smriti Mandhana started strongly scoring three boundaries of six deliveries, things soon went downhill as both the openers – Mandhana (14) and Jemimah Rodrigues (1) depart in quick succession, once again leaving onus on skipper Mithali Raj.
Punam Raut (10), playing at an unusual number 3 slot, failed to get going as India fell to 40-3 in just 13.4 overs. What followed next was easily the best passage of play in the day for India, as their two most experienced batswomen – Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur stitched a 62 run stand to pull them out of the early troubles. Playing her 100th ODI, Kaur looked in a fine form as she played some glorious shots to race to 40 off as many balls in no time. Just when it started looking up for the Indians, a rush of blood for Kaur meant that she threw away her wicket trying to go aerial against the opposition captain Sune Luus.
Undeterred of what was going around her, Mithali Raj continued to go about her usual business to bring up her 54th ODI half century in the company of Deepti Sharma. But once Raj (50) fell in the 38th over with the score reading 154-5, there was no coming back for the Women in Blue as they the South African Women tightened the screws. For South Africa, Shabnim Ismail was the pick of the lot with 3-28 in 10 overs while Nonkululeko Mlaba scalped two.
If the first half of the game was painful for the Indians, the second was even worse as almost all their bowlers were carted around for fun by the African openers. None of the Indian bowlers ever seemed threatening enough to take a wicket as the openers – Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt, stitched a 169 run partnership.
At one stage it felt as if Lee and Wolvaardt will take their team home without any casualties but the experienced Jhulan Goswami (2-38) came had other ideas, as she prized out Wolvaardt (80) and skipper Luus (1) in quick succession.
With just one run to win at the fall of Luus, it was a little too late for the Indians and Lee (83*) and Lara Goodall made sure that the South African Women took a 1-0 series lead without any further hiccups 9.5 overs to spare.