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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

India send a warning

India, through an accomplished 69 from the teenager Mathali Raj and tight bowling performances by Renu Margrate, Purnima Rao and Rupanjali Shastri, scored a comprehensive victory over South Africa on the second day of the CricInfo Women's World Cup in Christchurch. And they sent out a warning: do not take us lightly.

Even an unbeaten world record nineth wicket partnership of 66 between Yolande van der Merwe and the captain, Kim Price, could not stop the Indian dominance of a match played in beautiful conditions at Hagley Oval.

Batting first - and not by choice - on a pitch tinged with green, South Africa struggled from the start with only 10 runs on the board in six overs. That would not have been a problem if a solid foundation had been developed from which to launch a late attack. However, the tight bowling of the opening Indian attack of Smitha Harikrishna and particularly Renu Margrate forced errors from the South Africans and wickets fell with disturbing regularity.

If the South African minds were on India's spinning strength, they paid an early price, two wickets to the medium pacers. And when the spin did arrive, in the form of Purnima Rao's off breaks, any fears they may have had were immediately justified. Two wickets to Rao in her first three overs left South Africa at 27 for four. When the off-spinner combined with her captain, Anju Jain, to have the stubborn opener Linda Olivier stumped for 21 leaving the score at 44 for five even the heroics of van der Merwe and Price could not provide a competitive score.

However, the South African lower order pair did show how batting should be approached, picking up the singles and dealing appropriately to the occasional loose ball. Van der Merwe's 42 not out, including four fours, eclipsed her previous best ODI score of 2 not out. It was to their credit that South Africa batted out their 50 overs but the way in which the last two made batting looking straightforward suggested the 128 total was never going to be enough.

So it proved. Sune van Zyl managed to extract some disconcerting bounce from the pitch but the Indian opening pair of Jian and Anjum Chopra handled the South African attack with aplomb. The fall of Chopra for 13 at 26 might have given the South Africans some hope. But enter Mithali Raj. Particularly strong square on the off, she gave the bowlers no respite. Price in particular with assistance from Cindy Eksteen and Alison Hodgkinson applied the brakes on occasions but the Indians remained patient - and reaped the reward.

Raj's 69 of the 129 required won her the woman of the match award and for India the eight-wicket win gave them the start to the tournament that they would have only dreamed about.

A very happy coach, Sreerupa Bose, clearly took satisfaction from making those who have been assessing the tournament prospects take notice of India. She said that the match signalled that if India gave 100 % they would give all teams a hard fight.

She acknowledged that concentration had wandered during the last South African partnership. However, she also paid tribute to the South African batswomen for taking charge with good placement around the wicket.

Of the apparent surprise that India should elect to bowl when winning the toss, she said that her opening bowlers might not be fast but they were accurate and capable of taking advantage of a pitch that suited them. And why, she said, give the advantage to the opposition. She was proved right in resounding fashion.

However, she said, looking ahead: "This is the first paper. The exam has only just begun."

The South African coach, Rodney Willemburg, summed up his feelings in one word: "Disappointed." He said his team had let themselves down, seeing "a monster that was not there" and had played to the reputation of the Indian spinners. He had praise for his last pair but also acknowledged that the Indian batswomen had played the simple game.

For South Africa, the task has become bigger. But for the rest of the teams the warning has gone out: India is a force to be reckoned with.

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  • India send a warning

    India, through an accomplished 69 from the teenager Mathali Raj and tight bowling performances by Renu Margrate, Purnima Rao and Rupanjali Shastri, scored a comprehensive victory over South Africa on the second day of the CricInfo Women's World Cup