Neither captain was keen - "it is a little bit foolish," South Africa's Kim Price said - but no one was injured and the two sides produced a thrilling if inelegant game of 20 overs each.
Price won the toss and put England in, and after a nervous start 17-year- old Charlotte Edwards from Huntingdon ran up an increasingly fluid and commanding 38 off 50 balls. Edwards was preferred to the more experienced opener Helen Plimmer because she also bowls leg-spin, a decision that proved justified.
"I thought once it got to the end, the captain, Karen Smithies, would bring on a more experienced bowler," Edwards said. "But I suppose she thought that a leg-spinner would suit the Indian wickets."
After their slow start, England's 94 for 7 looked eminently catchable. South Africa went off like a train, thrashing 42 off the first 7 overs - then Yorkshire leg-spinner Kathryn Leng stepped up to bowl a wicket maiden and gave away only two singles in her next 12 deliveries. With Melissa Reynard putting in a tidy spell at the other end, South Africa were on the back foot, and started losing wickets.
England held on to win in a tight finish, Edwards taking three wickets to collect the player of the match award - or, as they fetchingly call it here, the "Eve of the match". Megan Lear, the England coach, was delighted. "Twenty-over games can go any way, and we held up well to a lot of pressure," she said. "South Africa are a very good side, but this is the World Cup. If you've got to play, you've got to win."
This was a crucial first game in the tournament for England. They now have a three-point lead over the other Pool A teams, including third-ranked Australia, whose games in Madras and Bangalore were rained off. Organisers are awarding three points where games are abandoned and six points for victories.
The Indians were delighted just to have got a game on at all. Although the crowd numbered only a few hundred, the presence of government ministers, and local journalists should spread the word that this World Cup is finally under way. And so are England - their train for Vijayavada, and tomorrow's game with Pakistan, leaves at 5.30 this morning.
(South Africa won toss)
J Brittin run out 3
C Edwards st Terblanche b Price 38
B Daniels lbw b Kotze 2
S Metcalfe c Terblanche b Price 7
J Cassar run out 24
K Smithies c Olivier b Kuylaars 3
K Leng st Terblanche b Eksteen 10
M Reynard not out 0
Extras (lb5, w2) 7
Total (for 7, 20 overs) 94
Fall: 1-14, 2-22, 3-33, 4-68, 5-69, 6-92, 7-92.
Did Not Bat: S Redfern, C Taylor, D Connor.
Bowling: Kotze 4-0-13-1; Laing 4-0-15-0; Eksteen 4-0-19-1; Price 4-1- 17-2; Kuylaars 4-0-25-1.
L Olivier st Cassar b Smithies 5
E Akehurst c Daniels b Smithies 13
H Davies st Cassar b Smithies 0
K Laing c Daniels b Leng 14
D Reid run out 5
D Terblanche b Connor 8
C Eksteen c Connor b Edwards 3
A Kuylaars b Edwards 1
A Kotze st Cassar b Edwards 13
K Price not out 15
A Bezuidenhout not out 1
Extras (lb3, w5, nb1) 9
Total (for 9, 20 overs) 87
Fall: 1-10, 2-10, 3-30, 4-42, 5-46, 6-56, 7-58, 8-61, 9-86.
Bowling: Redfern 2-0-10-0; Smithies 4-0-26-3; Reynard 4-0-10-0; Leng 4-1-9-1; Edwards 3-0-15-3; Connor 3-0-14-1.Reuse content