Killer Miller inspires South Africa to end India’s hope of world-record!

Visitors South Africa thrashed a second-string Team India to snap the hosts’ 12-match winning streak in T20Is, a world record jointly shared with Afghanistan and Romania, even as a near-capacity Feroze Shah Kotla witnessed as many as 425 runs being scored in a high-scoring encounter.

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Going in without their regulars in Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, or Jasprit Bumrah, India had lost skipper KL Rahul to a groin injury, and Delhi Capitals’ skipper Rishabh Pant had taken the reins in the first match. Playing to the potential, swashbuckling opener, Ishan Kishan slammed 76 off 48 (11×4, 3×6) even as other batsmen rallied around him. A rusty Powerplay saw both openers get by with edges carrying to the fence and most boundaries being scored behind the wicket off unintentional strokes. Once the Powerplay was through, however, Kishan came into his own and started pummeling the Protea attack in a stroke-filled display of his variety of shots.

A heartening display of T20 batting by everyone who came to the crease must have eased some nerves in the hosts’ camp, what with India bearing the tag of being sluggish batters in T20Is. Playing true to the stand-in skipper’s firebrand approach of batting, opener Ruturaj Gaikwad (23, 15b, 3×6), Shreyas Iyer (36, 27b, 1×4, 3×6), Pant (29, 16b, 2×4,2×6) himself, and Hardik Pandya (31*, 12b, 2×4, 3×6) hoisted India to a formidable 211/4 in 20 overs. At the halfway mark, it seemed that India would extend their winning run in the T20s and claim the world record of winning most T20Is in a row.

All was well for India for a large part of the first 10 overs of the second innings as well, in spite of a Dwaine Pretorius (29, 13b, 1×4, 4×6) cameo in the Powerplay. They had South Africa on the back foot when they dismissed the in-form Quinton de Kock for 22 off 18, leaving the Proteas at 81/3 in the ninth over. The bowling group led by Bhuvneswar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal, comprising of Harshal Patel, Axar Patel, Avesh Khan and Pandya, was largely inexperienced on the international front but had been heavyweights of the IPL in recent years, and a 211 target is defended more easily than not by most bowling attacks.

But then out walked to bat another IPL heavyweight from the recently concluded season. David ‘Killer’ Miller took the game by the scruff of the neck, slamming an unbeaten 64 off 31 in a merciless flogging of the new-look Indian bowling side, showing how different the international stage is compared to the IPL. He helped himself to 4 boundaries, and five biggies were dispatched over it, the most glorious of all and extended lofted cover drive off a fuller Bhuvneswar Kumar dolly.

Rassie van der Dussen had dug himself into a rut at the other end, having scored 30 off 31, before Miller’s clean hitting inspired him to go into overdrive himself, ending with an undefeated 75 off 46 studded with seven fours and 5 hits over the fence. Some lacklustre catching – KKR skipper Shreyas Iyer dropped a catch that should have been taken in the deep early on in the assault launched by the Protea duo – and some rather ordinary death bowling helped the two batters take South Africa home with as many as five balls to spare.

IPL Purple Cap winner Yuzvendra Chahal looked like a fish out of the water on a lively Delhi track, ending up wicketless, while Bhuvi and Harshal Patel – last season’s Purple Cap winner – went for 58 runs in the 15th, 17th, and 18th overs between them, effectively costing India the match in that span of time.

Thursday’s defeat underlined the amount of work that needs to be done with the bowling group, especially when put under the pump. IPL success doesn’t necessarily translate into international returns, and only astute man-management and game-awareness, backed by experience, can result in as much. Perhaps India will have to think of the same going into the second T20I against the Proteas. Stay Tuned with The Sportsway for more updates

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