Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt shared the highest-ever opening wicket stand against India in women’s One-Day International cricket to give South Africa an emphatic eight-wicket win in the first of the five match series in Lucknow on Sunday.

Playing exactly a year after their last international cricket outing – the T20 World Cup final in Australia – India looked underprepared.

Asked to bat, they could only manage 177/9 despite a half-century skipper Mithali Raj (50 off 85) and an enterprising 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 Mithali and Harmanpreet steadied the innings after India lost their first three wickets for 40 runs, including opener Smrit Mandhana (14 off 20), who looked in sublime touch during her short stay.

Harmanpreet, playing her 100th ODI, looked set for a good knock but played but an ill-timed aerial shot off Sune Luss and was caught at long off. She smashed six boundaries in her entertaining knock.

Captain Mithali, 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 in the Batting Powerplay triggered a collapse that saw India reeling at 160/8 from 154/4. 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.

Brief Scores:

India: 177/9 in 50 overs (Mithali Raj 50, Harmanpreet Kaur 40, Deepti Sharma 27; Shabnim Ismail 3/28, N Mlaba 2/41) lost to South Africa (Lizelle Lee 83 not out, Laura Wolvaardt 80; Jhulan Goswami 2/38) by 8 wickets.

With PTI Inputs