India Women vs South Africa Women: Priya Punia, bowlers hand host emphatic win

Fifties from Priya Punia and Jemimah Rodrigues helped India to an easy win after Jhulan Goswami's three-wicket haul restricted South Africa women to 164.

Priya Punia (left) smashed an unbeaten 75, while Jemimah (centre) scored 55. Jhulan Goswami picked up three wickets in the first innings.   -  Special Arrangement

India cruised to an eight-wicket win over a shoddy South Africa in the first ODI held at the Reliance Cricket Ground here on Wednesday.

Faced with a small target of 165, India rode on fine knocks from ODI debutante Priya Punia (75  n.o, 124b, 8x4) and Jemimah Rodrigues (55, 65b, 7x4) to get the job done with 50 deliveries to spare. Openers Jemimah and Priya got the home side on the right track with a solid 83-run stand. Jemimah was adventurous with her strokeplay, while Priya was happy to block.

Jemimah could have got a big score, but her across the line heave to Nondumiso Shangase cut her exciting essay short. Priya started nervously, before opening up with a few crisp drives. It was a day to remember for 23-year-old Priya, who took India past the finish line in the company of seasoned captain Mithali Raj (11 n.o.).

"I received a call from my father today morning. He told me to take my time and stick around at the crease. His advice worked quite well," Priya said. The happy occasion could have been ruined had Marizanne Kapp held on to a simple catch offered by Priya, batting on 6.

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The 36-year-old Mithali, incidentally, has now completed 20 years in international cricket. Her maiden appearance came in an ODI against Ireland back in June 1999.

After opting to bat, South Africa struggled to get going. Pacers Jhulan Goswami (three for 33) and Shikha Pandey (two for 38) got among the wickets, while the spin trio of Ekta Bisht, Deepti Sharma and Poonam Yadav kept things tight.

The batters were all at sea against the generous flight offered by the slow bowlers. The visitor did not get to the pitch of the ball, and ended up playing airy shots well away from the body. The experienced Trisha Chetty (14, 17b) attempted to slog left-arm Ekta out of the park, but ended up stumped.

Ekta then deceived Mignon du Preez (16, 16b) in the air, dragging her out to offer a second stumping to wicket-keeper Taniya Bhatia. Laura Wolvaardt (39, 62b) fell to off-spinner Deepti Sharma, who got one to go through bat and pad.

Trisha, Mignon and Laura paid the price for committing to the front foot much too early and without good reason. Only Marizanne showed the skill required to stay alive, playing the ball late and under her nose. It was Jhulan who started the fire, trapping Lizelee Lee leg-before with a sharp inswinger in the very first ball of the match. Shikha put the skids by sending back skipper Sane Luus and Nadine de Klerk in the same over.