Not much focus was on the women’s South Africa tour of India, however, spinner Deepti Sharma brought the games into the limelight with her exceptional bowling spell where she recorded three maiden overs in her four-over quota, apart from taking three wickets.
Deepti contributed to the team in a crucial moment as the Indian women survived a Mignon du Preez blitz to eke out a 11-run win over South African in the first T20 International in Surat on Tuesday (September 24).
South Africa won the toss and chose to bowl first, which put India under pressure as they struggled with their middle-order trying to convert runs on a slow pitch, setting a target of a modest 130 for eight.
Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur top-scored for the side with a 34-ball 43, the innings containing three fours and two sixes as her other colleagues found the going tough.
A clear spinner-friendly pitch supported the Indian spinners to tie down the visitors, who were bowled out for 119 with one ball left.
Apart from Deepti (3/8), left-arm spinner Radha Yadav, leg-break bowler Poonam Yadav and pacer Shikha Pandey took two wickets apiece.
Du Preez took the fight to the Indian camp with her gritty 59-run knock but could not take her side past the finish line.
South Africa were reeling at 65 for six at one stage but Du Preez infused life into their chase with her attacking knock, which came off 43 balls with four shots to the fence and three over it.
She added 32 runs with Ayabonga Khaka, causing some anxiety to the home team.
Medium-pacer Shikha Pandey broke the partnership by cleaning up Khaka in the 18th over, in which she conceded just one run.
After that Deepti conceded eight runs from the 19th over, leaving South Africa to score 18 from six balls.
Du Preez began with an inside-out six off left-arm spinner Radha Yadav but was stumped in the fourth ball, tilting the match in India’s favour.
Earlier, the 15-year-old Shafali Verma was dismissed for a four-ball duck on her much-anticipated debut. She was caught off pacer Shabnim Ismail (3/26), who emerged as the most successful bowler for the visitors with a three-wicket haul.
The South African bowler took the pace off the ball on a slow pitch to make it difficult for the Indians to time the ball.
A 46-run stand between Harmanpreet and Deepti Sharma (16 from 16 balls) seemed to revive India’s innings but medium-pacer Nadine de Klerk (2/10) removed both of them in a space of three balls to deny the home team a flourishing finish.
The fourth-wicket partnership ended when wicket-keeper Lizelle Lee caught Deepti off De Klerk, who also trapped the Indian skipper.
After Verma’s fall, Smriti Mandhana batted in her usual aggressive manner, scoring 21 off 16 balls with four boundaries before falling to Nondumiso Shangase.
Jemimah Rodrigues (19 off 25) and Veda Krishnamurthi (10 off 11) also could not last long at the crease.
India women: 130 for 8 in 2 overs (H Kaur 43, SS Mandhana 23; S Ismail 3/26, N de Klerk 2/10).
South Africa women: 119 all out in 19.5 overs.
(With inputs from agencies)