Lucknow: Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt shared the highest opening wicket stand against an under-prepared India to give South Africa an emphatic eight-wicket win in the first ODI of the five match series here on Sunday.
Asked to bat, India never got the momentum it needed and could only manage 177 for nine despite sedate fifty from skipper Mithali Raj (50 off 85) and a quick-fire 40 off 41 balls from her deputy Harmanpreet Kaur.
Lee (83 not out off 122) and Wolvaardt (80 off 110) helped South Africa chased down the target in 40.1 overs with a record 169-run stand.
India would quickly like to forget their first outing in 12 months and come back much stronger in the next game against a side which has come into the series with substantial game time.
The South African opening duo did not look any sort of trouble against the India pacers as well as their highly rated spinners. Lee smashed 11 fours and a six while Wolvaardt collected 12 boundaries.
Veteran India pacer Jhulan Goswami (2/38), playing her first game since November 2019, was the most impressive in an otherwise disappointing bowling effort. Debutant pacer Monica Patel got only four overs in which she conceded 20 runs.
The spin-bowling troika of Rajeshwari Gaekward, Deepti Sharma and Poonam Yadav failed to provide any breakthroughs that were needed to keep India in the game.
Earlier, the 62-run stand between Raj and Kaur steadied the innings after India lost their first three wickets for 40 runs, including star opener Smrit Mandhana (14 off 20), who looked in sublime touch during her short stay.
Harmanpreet, playing her 100th ODI, looked ominous but played one big shot too many to be caught at long off. She smashed six boundaries in her entertaining knock.
Raj, who took some time to get going in her first game since November 2019, then shared a 52-run partnership with Deepti Sharma (27 off 46) to keep the innings moving. But her dismissal off a full-toss triggered a collapse that saw India reeling at 160 for eight from 154 for four.
The skipper's innings comprised four boundaries and a six.
Senior South Africa pacer Shabnim Ismail was the pick of the bowlers, taking three wickets for 28 runs in 10 overs.
Indian players did not get to play in the last 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic while South Africa recently beat Pakistan 3-0 at home.
India: 177 ofr 9 in 50 overs (Mithali Raj 50, Harmanpreet Kaur 40, Deepti Sharma 27; Shabnim Ismail 3/28, N Mlaba 2/41).
South Africa (Lizelle Lee 83 not out, Laura Wolvaardt 80; Jhulan Goswami 2/38).
South Africa won by eight wickets.
India Lacked Match Practice, Says ODI Vice-Captain Harmanpreet Kaur
Indian women's ODI vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur on Saturday said the team was lacking match practice and will need time to get back into rhythm after being away from international cricket for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Playing their first international match in 12 months, the Indian women's team suffered an eight-wicket loss in the first ODI at the hands of South Africa to trail the five-match series 0-1.
"We didn't get any international cricket for a year. Apart from three IPL games we didn't get much time to work as a unit. As a team you need to spend time and get ready for any series," Kaur said at the post-match press conference.
"Nowadays everybody is looking for a big total, every game we want to score more than 250 but for that you need some time and matches.
"In the past few years we had built a rhythm but we will need time to create that rhythm and next game we will try to do that as a unit," added Kaur, who was playing her 100th ODI.
The Indian team last played on March 8 last year when they lost to Australia in the T20 World Cup final.
Additionally, they got only two days of nets before the series, making it tougher for the players to be at their best from the word go which was visible as India struggled with the bat, managing 177 for nine in the designated 50 overs.
The 31-year-old conceded that her side was guilty of throwing away their wickets and lacked partnerships with both bat and ball.
"When you are playing after a long time there are chances were you can collapse but they bowled well and we threw our wickets. As a bowling unit, there were no partnership, you need partnership whether it is bowling or batting," she said.
"Today I felt our bowling was also not upto the mark, our spinners are good but it can happen if you are playing after a long time, sometimes things cannot be in your favour. We had a bad day today, whatever we were doing, we couldn't execute it."