IND-W vs SA-W: Thrust into Bengaluru limelight, Smriti Mandhana and Asha Sobhana sparkle yet again

Smriti Mandhana scored her sixth ODI century, and leggie Asha Sobhana claimed a four-wicket haul on debut during India Women’s thumping win over South Africa in the first ODI in Bengaluru on Sunday.

Published : Jun 17, 2024 20:55 IST , BENGALURU - 2 MINS READ

Smriti Mandhana and Asha Sobhana in action.
Smriti Mandhana and Asha Sobhana in action. | Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K/The Hindu

Smriti Mandhana and Asha Sobhana in action. | Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K/The Hindu

Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) fans seldom miss an opportunity to chant their franchise’s name in stadia.

At times, it has come across as jarring, for echoes of “RCB, RCB” could even be heard in the totally unrelated universe of Indian Super League (ISL) football.

On Sunday at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, a section of supporters burst into the same chorus, during India women’s thumping 143-run ODI victory over South Africa, but for once it didn’t feel totally out of place.

They were for Smriti Mandhana, who scored her sixth ODI century, and, to a lesser degree, leggie Asha Sobhana, who claimed a four-wicket haul on debut.

Mandhana captained RCB to the Women’s Premier League (WPL) trophy in March and Asha was the second-highest wicket-taker (12) in that victorious campaign.

“Post WPL, it feels like I’m more from Bangalore than Maharashtra,” Mandhana said after the match, with a wide grin. “I really like the crowd support here.”

The adulation wasn’t without reason. Mandhana’s 117-run knock against the Proteas stood out for its studiousness. Prior to this, she had crossed the half-century mark 31 times in ODIs but reached hundred on just five occasions.

But on a not-so-easy pitch, she put her head down, overcame mid-innings cramps and bailed her team out of trouble from a precarious 99 for five.

“I started off pretty well, and whenever you get two cover drives in the first over, you always feel good,” the 27-year-old said.

“[But] whenever I thought of taking the game on, there was a wicket. Maybe that helped me stay at the crease. My target was to take the team over 250. I started off in the 90s [strike rate] but had to cut down my shots midway. There were a few dot balls but I still had to be calm about it,” the southpaw added.

For Asha, 33, it was the high point of a dream year so far. After playing a starring role in RCB’s WPL triumph, Asha earned a maiden national team call ahead of the five-match T20I tour to Bangladesh in May. She played two matches there and the ODI debut has followed soon.

“Back in 2017 or 2018, I remember looking at her in the Challengers, and thinking ‘Oh she can really turn the ball’,” Mandhana said about Asha.

“Her last eight months have shown what hard work can do to a player. The way she bowled [versus South Africa], turning the ball square, I am happy that she is in my team. Whenever I face her in the nets, it’s really hard to go over the top. I love (batting against) leg-spinners, but I can’t really do it against Asha. That shows her strength.”

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