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India’s fielders stood out in the series win

Shock and awe: Harmanpreet's

Shock and awe: Harmanpreet’s Women in Blue delivered an impressive performance and beat South Africa 3-0. | Photo credit: MURALI KUMAR K

The 3-0 win against South Africa in the ODI series that ended on Sunday could not have come at a better time for India.

Apart from helping the team to erase the bad memories of their 3-0 loss to Australia earlier this year, it also set the ball rolling for India’s preparations for the T20 World Cup to be held in Bangladesh later this year.

While not necessarily testing skills specific to the T20 format, it was an opportunity to assess the form and fitness of the players, try out different batting and bowling combinations and assess the general standard of fielding.

Smriti Mandhana performed brilliantly, scoring 117, 136 and 90 in her three matches. In addition to her impressive strokeplay, her stamina was particularly notable. India batted a total of 140.4 overs in the three matches and Smriti batted for 122.3 of them.

Captain Harmanpreet Kaur also returned to scoring runs, scoring a superb hundred in the second game, her first since September 2022. But Shafali Verma’s form – 52 runs in three innings – was worrying.

However, with India scheduled to play three T20Is against the Proteas in Chennai after the one-off Test, the 20-year-old is expected to regain her strength as the shortest format is her safe place. India tried out D. Hemalatha and Priya Punia at No. 3, an experiment that is expected to be repeated in more detail.

Leg-spinner Asha Sobhana and pacer Arundhati Reddy also made promising ODI debuts. The 33-year-old Asha, who fought her way into India’s white-ball team after an excellent WPL, took four wickets in her first appearance.

In contrast, 27-year-old Arundhati is no international novice. She made her T20I debut back in 2018 and has played 26 matches since then. The right-arm batsman, who joined the squad in July 2021, has proven herself for the Delhi Capitals in the WPL 2024 and then for the South Zone in the inter-zonal multi-day tournament.

She has come on so well that Harmanpreet trusted her to bowl the penultimate over in the second ODI, which India won by a nerve-wracking four runs. In the last game, Arundhati was one of the best players (10-0-36-2), taking both wickets with her own shots.

The most heartwarming aspect of the series, however, was India’s fielding. Jemimah Rodrigues was a bundle of energy, especially in the second game where she saved more runs than the winning margin. While the catching is not yet perfect, coach Amol Muzumdar will be pleased.

“Fielding comes first no matter what,” Shreyanka Patil said after Sunday’s match. You may have scored a hundred or you may have scored a zero or you may have scored five runs or nothing, but if you prevent five runs, it’s still a win for your team.

“Everyone puts in a little extra work after an hour of bowling or batting in training. The results are showing and we are all happy.”

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