A better prepared South Africa, on the other hand, were clinical and will be hard to beat in the coming games. After the game, Harmanpreet realised the players needed some time to gel as a unit. Barring Harmanpreet, Mithali and Deepti Sharma to a certain extent, none of the batters could apply themselves on a decent batting surface.
A lot of them were guilty of poor shot selection as pointed out by Harmanpreet after the game. The spinners, who are traditionally considered India’s strength, hardly troubled the South African duo of Lizelle Lee and 21-year-old Laura Wolvaardt, who put up the highest ever opening wicket stand against India to run away with the contest.
There were some positives, however, such as Mithali scoring a gritty half-century and pacer Jhulan Goswami showing she is still among the best in the business. Both the veterans were playing their first game since November 2019.
Kaur too looked good in her 100th ODI but would have liked to convert the start into a big score. Opener Smriti Mandhana struck three delightful fours before falling to a loose shot and would be backing herself to bat long on Tuesday.
“Few of them got starts but couldn’t convert. The bowlers need to be more consistent with lines and lengths, maybe they weren’t consistent because they’re coming back after a long break,” Mithali acknowledged, after the match in which India could post only 177 that South Africa chase down in just 40.1 overs.
Pacer Monica Patel was handed her debut on Sunday and more caps can be handed out in the second game with the management keeping one eye on preparations for the World Cup next year.
Pulling off one back against South Africa seems like a daunting task considering the way they played in the opener. They looked a team high on confidence having blanked Pakistan at home recently.
Their pace attack led by Shabnim Ismail was impressive and Indians will have to find a way to negate that threat.
India women: Mithali Raj (captain), Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Punam Raut, Priya Punia, Yastika Bhatia, Harmanpreet Kaur, D Hemalatha, Deepti Sharma, Sushma Verma (wicket-keeper), Swetha Verma, Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jhulan Goswami, Mansi Joshi, Poonam Yadav, C Prathyusha, Monica Patel.
South Africa women: Sune Luus (captain), 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.