Shafali, Richa and Harleen dispel some gloom

Despite series defeat, India appears to be moving in the right direction in the T20 format

It was delightful, the way Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana tangoed together at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Stadium on Tuesday night. While it was ‘see ball, hit ball’ for Shafali, Smriti was all silken grace and sublime timing.

Shafali had ruined the South African bowlers’ figures in the second T20I too, with her 31-ball 47. But India had lost the match to surrender the rubber.

Her 60 off 30 balls in the final game, however, gave India a much-needed consolation win. A scoreline of 2-1 always reads much better than 3-0.

Shafali’s great show also helped her regain the No. 1 spot in the ICC’s rankings for T20 batting. Perhaps she will not be made to wait much longer for her ODI debut. Especially after India’s 4-1 defeat in the series that preceded the T20Is.

Formidable alliance

Shafali could form a formidable opening alliance with the left-handed Smriti in ODIs, too. She wasn’t the only 17-year-old who got the vocal crowds on their feet here.

There was Richa Ghosh, too. She made a blistering 44 not out off 26 balls in the second T20I. She could turn into a handy finisher.

Yet another youngster, Harleen Deol, also showed what she could do when given an opportunity. The 22-year-old from Chandigarh made her maiden international fifty after being sent in at No. 3 in the first T20I and followed it up with 31 in the second. Her leg-spin is a value addition. The success of the young trio should indeed gladden the Indian team management. Despite losing the series, this side appears to be moving in the right direction, certainly as far as the T20 format is considered.

The superb bowling of left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad in the final T20I would have also pleased coach W.V. Raman, after the Indian slow bowlers disappointed in the ODI series. The South African batters tackled the Indian spinners rather well, until they walked into that magical spell from Rajeshwari.

The heavy defeat notwithstanding, there were some memorable moments for the host in the 50-overs series as well. Captain Mithali Raj crossed another milestone, as she became only the second ever female cricketer to reach 10,000 international runs. And there was a fine hundred for Punam Raut.

The Women in Blue may not have lived up to the expectations, but they had been rusting a bit, having played little cricket during the last one year following the coronavirus outbreak. The South Africans, on the other hand, arrived here like a well-oiled machine.

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