Deepti, Harmanpreet, spinners prevail despite du Preez's 59 as India go 1-0 up
The result, though comfortable in the end, looked improbable after India huffed and puffed to 130 in the first innings
India women 130 for 8 (Harmanpreet 43, Ismail 3-26, de Klerk 2-10) beat South Africa women 119 all out (du Preez 59, Deepti 3-8, Poonam 2-25) by 11 runs
Deepti Sharma and Poonam Yadav spun a web around a listless South Africa middle order, taking five wickets for just 33 between them to help India to an 11-run win in the first T20I in Surat. That was despite a spirited counter-attack from Mignon du Preez, who kept a packed stadium and all the Indian fielders on the edge with some powerful blows in her 43-ball 59. At one stage, she brought the equation down to 12 off five balls with a six off the first delivery of the last over, before running past one in the search of another maximum, stumped in the final over.
The result, though comfortable in the end, looked improbable after India huffed and puffed to 130 and Pooja Vastrakar, who started proceedings on her return to international cricket bowled a wayward first over that went for 18. Lizelle Lee was the beneficiary, picking up three fours in the opening over of the chase.
The poor start seemed to have had a cascading effect as the experienced Shikha Pandey, too, strayed her inswinger onto the pads of Lee, paying the price with a four pulled through square leg and a couple of wides down the leg side. But she had the last laugh, getting her final ball on target, and the inswinger burst through the gap between Lee's seemingly impenetrable forward defence.
Lee's wicket marked the beginning of South Africa's steep slide. After the first 11 balls had gone for 25, the next 7.1 overs saw four wickets fall for just 23. It was precisely when the match turned as Deepti started with a maiden over, before removing Tazmin Brits and Nadine de Klerk in the space of four balls. In her next, which was quite remarkably the second of her three consecutive maidens.
Four overs later, after a quiet period, Poonam struck twice in two balls, removing Laura Woolvaardt and stand-in captain Sune Luus, with a chance of a hat-trick against a batsman who hadn't faced a ball in international cricket. Though Nondumiso Shangase survived the hat-trick, Harmanpreet Kaur, who was extracting appreciable turn with her seemingly innocuous offbreaks, got one to rip through her defences to leave them tottering at 65 for 6 in the 12th. With the match slipping from their grasp like quicksand, du Preez went on the attack, but though she threatened right till the end, she didn't have enough support to take her side over the line. Earlier, after being put into bat, India started poorly, losing 15-year-old debutant Shafali Verma for a four-ball duck to Shabnim Ismail, though much of the credit for the wicket should go to Tumi Sekhukhune, who took a stunner diving to her left at mid-on. South Africa's fielding oscillated between moments of brilliance like that and mediocrity as they missed run-out chances and dropped catches, the steepler of Harmanpreet costing 14, which proved to be quite significant in the end as the Indian captain rode her luck to get 43.
But before that, opener Smriti Mandhana and No.3 Jemimah Rodrigues feasted on some inconsistent bowling which included a number of full tosses that they dispatched to the fence. Ironically, it was a high full toss that saw the end of Mandhana for 21, after she had found the boundary twice in the sixth over from Shangase already. This time, she only managed to sky one to backward point, the umpires, after a brief consultation upstairs, deeming it a legal delivery. Rodrigues holed out to long-on, but India's own collapse was orchestrated by de Klerk, who struck twice in the space of three balls to send back Deepti and a dangerous-looking Harmeenpreet, who swung across the line of a straight one to be trapped in front. Despite those wickets, the lower order managed to eke out some vital runs that took India to 130, which proved sufficient.