India's stand-in captain Smriti Mandhana said her team's sloppy fielding made the hosts undeserving of a win in the second T20I against South Africa. On Sunday night, South Africa won off the final ball to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
"It is a bitter pill to swallow," Mandhana told Star Sports after the loss. "Thought 80 per cent of the time it was our game but we could not close it out in the end. Lots of things to learn from the game. Probably the way we fielded, I don't think we deserved to win the game. We have to work on our fielding and probably improve our fielding standards."
India missed three major chances on the night that cost them dearly. Opener Lizelle Lee was dropped on 30 and 60, by Richa Ghosh on both occasions, while left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad dropped Player of the Match Laura Wolvaardt, who struck the winning runs to finish unbeaten on 53, when she was on two.
Having been put in to bat for the second game on the trot, India, like in the series opener, lost Mandhana in the second over but equalled their powerplay tally of 41 for 1 from the first T20I. Their innings was steadied again by opener Shafali Verma and No. 3 Harleen Deol. With Verma muscling a 31-ball 47 and later No. 5 Ghosh smashing eight fours in her 26-ball 44, India set South Africa a 159 target, an improvement on their total of 130 the night before.
"The way our batters batted, it was amazing to watch, especially all the youngsters - Shafali, Richa, [and] then Harleen in between," Mandhana said. "The way the built up the partnership and got us to a 150-plus score [was commendable]. I think it was a good total to defend. But, as I said, if we would have done better in the second half of the match… A lot of positives but [there is] a lot of things to work on."
Asked if the 364-day period of almost complete inactivity that preceded the start of the ODI series or the pressure of the T20I format played a part in India's slip-ups in the field on Sunday, Mandhana said the issue needed addressing at a deeper level.
"We cannot keep using that as an excuse. We have to pull our socks [up]," she said. "We need to get better at that. Definitely, we are practising hard towards that. Hopefully, there will be one odd match where we will get it right and then everything good will start coming."
Seventeen-year-old Verma, who top-scored for India, said after the match that she was hopeful India would iron out their flaws as a fielding unit. "Mistakes in the field are part of cricket," the teenager said, "but I hope we learn from the errors we made today because we played well as a team."
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha