On a roll, Smriti Mandhana takes her game a notch up

Smriti's resilience was on full display during the first two ODI encounters against a confident South Africa.
Last Updated : 20 June 2024, 16:26 IST

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Bengaluru: Playing at home against a fearless and well-prepared opposition may bring out the best or the worst in an athlete. Some find pressure a pleasure while the lesser mortals wilt under it. Smriti Mandhana, over the years, has found a way to excel in sticky situations. 

The proof is in the pudding. Smriti's resilience was on full display during the first two ODI encounters against a confident South Africa in the ongoing all format series here at the M Chinnaswamy stadium.   

The 27-year-old stepped onto the field well aware of the fact that the team depended on her to give them a good start and carry them along for a majority of the 50 overs. The bowling was top notch and India needed a batter of her calibre to stand up and deliver.

There were nerves but it was the way in which Smriti kept those emotions in check to pace both her innings smartly to add a sixth and seventh ODI tons to her kitty in a span of four days. 

In her first outing, the Mumbaikar’s stats of adding every 25 runs to the number of balls taken to reach it reads as follows: 25 runs in 31 balls, 50 in 61, 75 in 93 and 100 in 116 to finish at 117 runs in 127 balls. In the second match: 25 runs in 42 balls, 50 in 67, 75 in 88 and 100 in 103 to end at 136 in 120 deliveries.  

With slow starts on both occasions, Smriti managed to accelerate only after crossing the half-century mark. Her hesitation was mostly against pace duo Ayabonga Khaka and Masabata Klaas during powerplay. But once she got comfortable, the opener capitalised on Proteas bowlers’ growing frustration over her relentlessness. The cover drive, her ally, was executed to perfection at every opportunity, the most productive shot during her stay. 

“The pitch wasn’t doing much for the batters. But that’s no reason. We can learn a lot of lessons from the way she (Smriti) played in those conditions even when the other Indian batters struggled,” said Nadine de Klerk, the South African all-rounder during a press conference on the eve of the second ODI. 

“That (Mandhana’s innings) was the ideal way to go about it,” the 24-year-old had observed after her team's batting collapse in the opener. 

In between all the batting prowess, the captain of the Royal Challengers Bengaluru in the Women’s Premier League, bowled her maiden ODI spell (1/13 in two overs) and claimed the wicket of Sune Luus for the small crowd at the stadium to erupt in joy.

Mandhana is on a roll. So far, she has looked unstoppable. The thought of scoring a third consecutive century would have surely crossed Smriti’s mind. And there will be a few fans turning up at the stadium with the very same expectation. Over to Sunday then. 

Published 20 June 2024, 16:26 IST

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