India 119 for 1 (Dhawan 51*) beat South Africa 118 (Chahal 5-22, Kuldeep 3-20) by nine wickets
Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav shared eight wickets between them at SuperSport Park, taking their total for the series to 13, as South Africa’s biggest weakness was brutally exposed once again. Against wristspin, their line-up is close to clueless, especially without two of their leading batsmen. In the absence of the injured Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers, the hosts folded for their lowest ODI total at home, and their eighth-lowest overall.
Twenty-three-year-old Aiden Markram’s international leadership debut on his home ground should have been the stuff of dreams, but it quickly turned into a nightmare. South Africa lost their first four wickets for 12 runs in the space of 26 balls and, after a very short period of rebuilding, their next six for 19 runs in 36 balls and were bowled out inside 33 overs. And just like that India cantered to a 2-0 series lead.
Virat Kohli chose to put South Africa in because he expected some early movement with two new balls; the hosts were happy to bowl second, anticipating turn in the afternoon. But they did not have to wait that long to see what spinners could do on a surface that will doubtless come under the spotlight again, for failing to play the home team’s advantage.
South Africa had a quiet start as Hashim Amla tried to anchor one end while Quinton de Kock was in the wars at the other. The first ball de Kock faced, bowled by Jasprit Bumrah, dribbled onto his stumps off a block but the bails were not dislodged. The second was a bouncer, in the vicinity of his throat, and the third struck him on the left hand.
De Kock got off the mark with a hook shot but continued to play tentatively and it was up to Amla to up the ante. That wasn’t easy against the Indian openers and Amla flirted with danger when he edged one over the top of second slip but seemed to settle with a gorgeous cover drive.
South Africa would have seen out the Powerplay wicket-less and scoring at around four runs to the over but Amla – anticipating a fuller delivery from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and shaping up to flay through the offside – was dismissed off a back-of-a-length ball that nipped back into him and took the edge as it passed through the bat-pad gap. Amla uncharacteristically reviewed, but replays showed he had to go.
De Kock lasted three more overs and never looked comfortable at the crease or with his equipment. He called for bat tape for an issue with the bottom of his bat and it was exactly that spot that got him into trouble when he tried to pull Chahal over midwicket but only found the fielder.
Sensing an opportunity to burrow into South Africa, Kohli brought on Kuldeep in the next over. His first ball was a half-tracker that Markram smacked in the air to deep midwicket where Bhuvneshwar was waiting. His fifth was tossed up, inviting the drive from David Miller, who came forward as the ball dipped in and edged to slip.
South Africa went from 39 without loss to 51 for 4. JP Duminy, the senior-most batsman in the line-up, had yet to face a ball and was out there with Khaya Zondo who was on debut. Duminy watched from the other end for 16 deliveries before his turn came. He and Zondo, who played calmly despite the situation, shared in a fifth-wicket stand of 48 and were allowed some reprieve when Kohli brought Hardik Pandya on in place of Chahal. They got to 95 for 4 at the halfway stage but then Chahal was brought back, Zondo’s eyes lit up to a slow, wide ball outside off, and he slog-swept to midwicket to leave Duminy with only Chris Morris and the tail.
In Chahal’s next over, Duminy was out lbw on the sweep. He wanted to review but Amla had used the only chance, and, even if Duminy did, it would have been in vain. The ball drifted from leg to pitch on middle and would have gone on to hit the stumps.
From there, it was a procession. Kuldeep trapped Kagiso Rabada lbw after Rabada failed to pick the wrong ‘un, and he had Morne Morkel dropped at mid-on the next ball. Morkel only lasted five more balls before he too fell to spin; he played against the turn to Chahal and was out lbw.
Imran Tahir was bowled by Bumrah and Morris holed out to deep cover to give Chahal his maiden ODI five-for, the best figures by an Indian bowler against South Africa in South Africa, and the second-best by an Indian against South Africa ever. To add insult to injury, India knocked off all but 21 runs of the target by the time of the scheduled lunch break, and play was extended by 15 minutes to allow the result to be achieved. But because it wasn’t, the players left the field for lunch with India needing two runs to win from 31 overs.
That farce aside, India did not face too many issues in the field. When play resumed, they quickly got the winning runs with a bit of a mis-hit behind square. Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli took India there, with a second-wicket stand of 93 runs, with Dhawan providing the match’s only half-century. South Africa only had one moment of success, when Kagiso Rabada had Rohit Sharma caught at fine leg off a bouncer in the fourth over. Rabada was the only bowler to show some intent and hit Kohli in the stomach, but South Africa needed much more. They did not even have enough runs to assess whether their decision to field two specialist spinners would have paid off, but the 18 runs Tabraiz Shamsi conceded in three overs suggests India were more than ready for the challenge.