The first T20I between India and visitors South Africa at Delhi on Thursday, 9th June, saw batsmen from both sides come out on top, with the Proteas outclassing the hosts’ tall 211 with five balls to spare. Sunday was a different ball game, however, as the track at Cuttack turned out to have its fair share of demons in it.
The movement extracted by the Protea pacers, Kagiso Rabada, Wayne Parnell and Anrich Nortje, made life difficult for the Indian batsmen initially, and only Ishan Kishan’s breezy 34(21b, 2×4, 3×6) helped India reach 42/1 at the end of the Powerplay. After he departed, however, it was a revolving door for the new batters at one end of the crease even as Shreyas Iyer (40, 35b, 2×4, 2×6) tried to hold up one end. Skipper Rishabh Pant (5, 7b) fell trying to loft Keshave Maharaj over extra cover and slicing it to deep midwicket, while Hardik Pandya scratched around for 9 runs off 12 balls before getting knocked over by a fine in-swinger from Parnell (1-23).
When Iyer was caught behind, awkwardly trying to poke at a ball that dipped back sharply into him, India were tottering at 98/5 in 14 overs, a pale shadow of the same batting unit which had put up an extravagant show a couple days ago. Axar Patel (10, 11b, 1×4) knocked around scrappily, letting Dinesh Karthik settle in, before the latter and Harshal Patel (12, 9b, 2×4) launched into the Proteas in the death overs. Karthik’s seems to be the only case of IPL form being translated into happy international returns, as he played apt finisher again, scoring 30 off 21 at 142.86, hitting two fours and sixes each.
The 148 runs India had on board seemed to be about par for the track it was, or perhaps only a few runs short. In fact, Bhuvneswar Kumar made merry on the track that seemed to be tailored for his crafty swing bowling, tearing through the Protea top order and striking thrice in his first three overs, leaving them at 29/3 after 5.3 overs. It did seem, then, that the hosts would level the series 1-all with the third match set to be a fight for gaining the lead.
It was not to be, however. Skipper Temba Bavuma (35, 30b, 4×4, 1×6) joined forces with ’keeper-bat Heinrich Klaasen and kept the inexperienced Indian attack at bay. Klaasen had come into the side filling in for an injured Quinton de Kock but played a blinder of a knock which is sure to throw up happy selection headaches once de Kock is well again.
Klaasen drove, cut, and hooked with authority and ease, making the pitch look like it was nothing like how it had played for the other batters, as he rammed 81 runs off 46 balls, helping himself to 7 fours and 5 towering sixes, two of which came in an over against IPL Purple Cap winner Yuzi Chahal. Klaasen had come in at 29/3 and was dismissed with the score at 144/5 and the match effectively over, with 5 runs needed in 18 balls.
Bhuvi came back to castle Wayne Parnell and ended an extraordinary outing for himself, finishing with 4-13 in his four overs, albeit in a losing cause. David Miller (20*, 15b, 1×4, 1×6) stayed around to implement the inevitable and help the Proteas win by 4 wickets with 10 balls to spare.
Incidentally, this loss meant that India had lost all their international matches to South Africa this year. Adding this statistic to the fact that India has won 11 out of 11 matches led by Rohit Sharma this year, and lost all seven led by other skippers, makes for grim reading ahead of a T20 World Cup, which is expected to be primarily conquered by the next generation of India players. The coach and management have a lot of worrying to do. Stay Tuned with The Sportsway for more updates!