Smriti Mandhana ton, Asha's 4-for in India's dominant win over South Africa | Crickit
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Smriti Mandhana ton, Asha's 4-for in India's dominant win over South Africa

Jun 16, 2024 09:01 PM IST

The opener's 117 steered the hosts to a solid total before Asha Sobhana's 4/21 sealed a 143-run win in the first ODI in Bengaluru

For a while now, it’s widely accepted that if Smriti Mandhana is in form, India’s batting is likely to find itself in a good space. The elegant left-hander has long established herself as one of the best players in the world and she bats with consummate ease to set up games for the team.

 Smriti Mandhana plays a shot during the first women's ODI cricket match between India and South Africa at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium(PTI)
Smriti Mandhana plays a shot during the first women's ODI cricket match between India and South Africa at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium(PTI)

In the first women’s ODI against South Africa on Sunday, Mandhana stepped up once again to hit her first international century on home soil and power India to a 143-run victory. On a sluggish pitch at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, she scored 117 off 127 balls to help the hosts recover from 99/5 to 265/8. The visitors never got going in the chase and were dismissed for 122 runs in 37.4 overs, with leg-spinner Asha Sobhana picking 4/21 on debut.

It was Mandhana's sixth century in the 50-over format, and the highest ODI score by an Indian woman at home. She went past skipper Harmanpreet Kaur in the list for most centuries in women’s ODIs by Indians and is just one behind former captain Mithali Raj. Three months after leading Royal Challengers Bengaluru to the Women’s Premier League title, it was another memorable day for the 27-year-old at a venue she can call her second home.

India lost wickets consistently after opting to bat. Even as Mandhana kept the scoreboard ticking with crisp stroke play, Shafali Verma (7), Dayalan Hemalatha (12), Harmanpreet (10), Jemimah Rodrigues (17) and Richa Ghosh (3) couldn’t get going and India found themselves in a tricky position after 22 overs.

But Mandhana added 81 runs with Deepti Sharma (37) and 58 with Pooja Vastrakar (31*) to revive the innings. The two all-rounders paced their innings well as the opener batted till the 47th over, hitting 12 fours and a six.

“I knew I had never scored a century in India but it didn’t come to my mind when I was batting,” Smriti said during the innings break. “Playing ODI cricket after a long time, it was hard to control my shots in the nets. We have been playing T20 cricket since the last five-six months, so it’s hard to resist the temptation. I controlled my shots and it worked well. Since the last few days, the focus has been on keeping the ball on the ground.”

Pacer Renuka Singh gave India the perfect start by claiming the key wicket of Laura Wolvaardt with the fourth ball of the innings. The South Africa skipper was beaten all ends up by a superb delivery that nipped in and kissed the left bail.

Only the experienced duo of Sune Luus (33) and Marizanne Kapp (24), in at No.4 and 5 respectively, managed to make a mark among the specialist batters. Asha removed Kapp for her first ODI wicket before Deepti trapped Luus in front in the 29th over to all but seal the deal. Keeper-batter Sinalo Jafta scored an unbeaten 27 down the order but the rest of South Africa’s inexperienced batting line-up looked at sea against spin.

“I just kept it simple and focussed on bowling in the right areas,” Asha said after the game. “I was in a good rhythm and wanted to continue. I have been practising this (leg-spin) for years and didn’t want to do anything extraordinary. This stadium is very special for me; by the grace of god everything went well.”

There was, however, a concern for India as Pooja limped off the field after injuring her left knee. The 24-year-old looked in considerable pain and it remains to be seen if she’ll be fit for the next game.

The second ODI of the three-match series will be played at the same venue on Wednesday.

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