In the first Twenty20 encounter of the five-match series on Tuesday in Pretoria, the Indian Women’s U-19 squad defeated South Africa by 54 runs. The junior World Cup in the shortest format begins on January 14, and the series is a key final lead-up to it.

Shafali Verma, the captain and one of the two teenagers selected from the senior national team for the U-19 season, was out after the first ball. It was a regrettable repetition of her senior debut dismissal, which again occurred against South Africa in 2019.

She did, however, have cause to celebrate when pacer Shabnam Shakeel and off-spinner Archana Devi both claimed three wickets to secure the decisive win.

Following Shafali’s dismissal, the innings were revived by a 70-run second-wicket partnership between Shweta Shehrawat and Soumya Tiwari. Shweta, the vice-captain, struck 40 off 39 balls, while Soumya made 40 off 46. After they were both out, India’s batting lineup had trouble scoring runs and wickets were falling often.

Hurley Gala (11) and Tithas Sidhu (13), two more senior squad members, helped India reach 137/5 before Richa Ghosh and the other player were both out for 15.

The Indian bowlers were ready to defend the low score, however. Elandri Janse Van Rensburg and Simone Lourens of South Africa were dismissed early in the innings by Shabnam, a 15-year-old lanky medium-pacer from Andhra Pradesh. Archana, a spinner, took over and grabbed three wickets to restrict the hosts.

In the end, South Africa was limited to 83/8 in 20 overs after needing 70 runs off the last five overs. Kayla Reyneke top-scored for South Africa with 20 runs off 25 balls before falling as Shabnam’s third victim.

Short scores: South Africa 83/8 (Shabnam 3/15, Archana 3/14); India 137/5 (Shweta 40, Soumya 36, Kyla 2/13, Hlubi 2/22). India won by 54 runs