When Smirit Mandhana struck a curvaceous pull of Shabnam Ismail toward deep mid-wicket for a boundary in the first ODI between South Africa Women’s and India Women’s (Diamond Oval, Kimberly) you could actually sense that the tall left-hander was in no hurry to break loose. A few balls later, she would drive Ayabonga Khaka toward deep extra cover for a gorgeous boundary.
Beginning the Proteas tour with a fiery knock
High back-lift. A tall, elegant stance. Eyes on the ball, picture perfect posture with the body leaning into those drives and pulls on either sides of the wicket. Smriti Mandhana had been a figure of poise and some massive destruction that came throughout the series.
Every South African bowler tried to curtail the Mandhana storm that consumed everything in its wake, be it Dane Van Niekerk’s probing, flighted leg breaks or Shabnam Ismail or Marizanne Kapp’s cunning pace and accuracy. But Mandhana’s blade was unrelenting. You immediately know that the talent in focus is something special and unassuming when all of her three ODI tons have come on foreign soil, away from the home advantage.
A series that had been labeled prior to the start a bastion of grotesque South African offensive, turned out to to be India’s onslaught against a massively talented side; that too, in its own backyard. The tall, big-striking left-hander Smriti had been India’s hero.
Holding on to her own against big stars in India Women’s
Surely, there were other stars who rendered valuable contributions with both bat and ball. Would you call Jhulan Goswami’s collecting her 200th ODI wicket any less important than the moment when India sealed the series? Would you hail Shikha Pandey and Deepti Sharma’s heroics- with both bat and ball- as any less impactful in gaining India the winning edge over their fierce opponents?
But there was something staunchly authoritative about Smriti Mandhana’s brilliance in the ODI series that made it hard to place her efforts as being second-best. Luckily for India, her form would continue in the immediate aftermath of the conclusion of the limited overs series.
After scores of 135 and 84, ensured not only an unlikely Indian triumph in the Protea-land but a mark of Mithali Raj’s women stamping great authority on the game, Smriti carried her great form into the T20s that followed. Only 1 of the 5 T20s have since taken place but there seems to be hardly a doubt about the kind of form Mandhana is demonstrating.
Event though it could be said that her 28 in her first ever T20 on South African soil didn’t exactly last long enough to take India home, as together with Veda Krishnamurthy, captain Mithali Raj struck the winning partnership, it was the kind of lightening fast cameo that enabled India Women’s to free their arms in their successful chase of 165. Smriti’s 28 came of just 15 balls, laced with 3 boundaries and 2 massive sixes.
Attacking Kapp and co. and continuing her ODI form
Interestingly, it was Mandhana and not Mithali who freed her arms in the very first over against Marizanne Kapp in thudding 19 runs. This, of course, would be a show of brutal hitting against a top quality seamer, someone who comes with the experience of 90 ODI and 41 T20 wickets. With the second T20 in the series slated to be held on February 16, with three more games to follow after that, it seems it’s going to take quite some stopping from South Africa to restrict Mandhana’s free flow of runs.
Smriti Mandhana’s T20 performances against South Africa
|Venue||Runs||4s||6s||Strike rate||Balls faced|
Smriti Mandhana’s best T20 scores so far, since debut in 2013
|Opposition||Runs||4s||6s||Strike rate||Balls faced|