Mithali Raj, Anuja Patil lead India to 1-0 with seven-wicket win

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India women 168 for 3 (Raj 54*, Krishnamurthy 37*, Rodriques 37) beat South Africa women 164 for 4 (van Niekerk 38, Patil 2-23) by seven wickets

Mithali Raj made an unbeaten 54 – her third successive fifty in T20Is – to marshal India’s chase of 165 and put them 1-0 up in the five-match series. This after T20 specialist offspinner Anuja Patil claimed 2 for 23 in her four overs to pin down South Africa’s batting line-up.

After South Africa were sent in, Lizelle Lee launched the innings with three boundaries in five balls across the the second and third overs. Shikha Pandey, however, recovered from an 11-run first over to have Lee caught at mid-off in the fifth over. Dane van Niekerk then gave her side direction with 38 off 31 balls. She found support from Sune Luus (18) and Mignon du Preez (31) to haul the hosts close to 100. Chloe Tryon then provided a blazing finish with 32 off seven balls, by smacking three sixes and a four off Pandey in the last over that went for 23 runs. Eighteen-year-old medium-pacer Pooja Vastrakar – one of India’s four debutants – returned 1 for 34.

India’s chase also started with a flurry of boundaries when Raj and Smriti Mandhana collected three fours and a six off Marizanne Kapp in the opening over. On 47 in the fifth over, India faced a bit of a stutter when Mandhana fell for a quick 15-ball 28 and captain Harmanpreet Kaur was run out on her first ball. However, 17-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues, also on debut, came out all guns blazing by clobbering three fours and a six in her first seven balls of international cricket. She and Raj scored 69 runs together in under nine overs, including Rodrigues’ 37 off 27 balls, studded with four fours and a six.

The platform had been set by Raj’s fifty that included six fours and a six. She was particularly severe on Shabnim Ismail, hitting 22 off 11 balls. She stayed unbeaten along with Veda Krishnamurthy (37*) to steer India home with seven wickets and seven balls to spare. Krishnamurthy continued from her two successive fifties in the ODI series and sealed the chase with a six in the 19th over. Five of South Africa’s seven bowlers conceded more than eight runs an over, and three of them more than 11 an over.

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