India’s middle-order collapse meant that superb half-centuries from Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli were in vain as the side was defeated by a tenacious South Africa by 31 runs in the inaugural One-Day International here on Wednesday.
Chasing a difficult 297, India was solid at 138 for one when wickets went in quick succession, destroying the visitors’ chances in the three-match series, in which they lead 0-1. India’s innings came to a close with a score of 265 for eight.
Temba Bavuma (110 off 143) and Rassie van der Dussen (129 not out off 96) produced contrasting hundreds en way to their 204-run partnership, which took South Africa to 296 for four after electing to bat.
When Kohli (51 off 63) and Dhawan (79 off 84) were in the middle, India was well set to win, but it all came crashing down with the conclusion of their 92-run partnership.
India have a history of leaning too much on their top three, and once again, the middle order failed to benefit on the platform established by Kohli and Dhawan following the harsh dismissal of skipper K L Rahul (12).
Kohli, who was playing his first game since his leadership spell ended across formats last week, barely broke a sweat in reaching his half-century before succumbing to a sweep shot from Tabraiz Shami, a stroke he rarely uses.
Dhawan looked in magnificent form throughout his stay and batted comfortably against the Test series’ rising star Marco Jansen, collecting five of his ten fours off the tall left-arm pacer.
The stage was set for Rishabh Pant (16), Shreyas Iyer (17), and debutant Venkatesh Iyer (2) to complete the job, but they all fell quickly, leaving India at 188 for six from a solid 138 for one.
While Pant was beaten by a lightning-fast Quinton de Kock, Shreyas and Venkatesh’s shot selection should have been improved.
Shardul Thakur (50 not out off 43) made a valiant effort near the end, but the damage had been done.
Earlier, Jasprit Bumrah (2/48) was India’s standout bowler in an otherwise forgettable bowling performance.
After a slow start, van der Dussen and Bavuma shared the second greatest partnership against India in ODIs to ensure the home team reached a competitive total.
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South Africa elected to bat on a sluggish Boland Park surface. Early on, the white ball did a bit, with both Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar able to move it off the pitch and into the air.
After an imprecise first over, Bumrah regained his composure and caught opener Janneman Malan (6) behind with an outswinger. Malan was caught on the crease, anticipating an incoming ball, with his sloppy push taking the outside edge.
South Africa battled to 39 for one in ten overs, with Indian bowlers choking off the run flow.
De Kock (27 off 41), making his first appearance since announcing his retirement from Test cricket, and Bavuma struggled with the ball not getting on to the bat.
De Kock was killed while attempting to free himself from the shackles. Ashwin struck de Kock’s stumps with a slider as the opener attempted a cut shot in his first ODI appearance since June 2017.
It became 68 for three in the 18th over when Aiden Markram was run out by Venkatesh following a failed attempt at a single.
At that point, it appeared as though South Africa would struggle to reach 200, but a valiant stand between Van der Dussen and Bavuma altered the course of the innings.
In the middle overs, Indian bowlers looked quite ordinary, with the well-set South African partnership rotating strike regularly and plucking up an occasional boundary.
Van der Dussen was the aggressor throughout the partnership, while Bavuma served as the anchor.
Van der Dussen utilized the reverse sweep for four runs against Yuzvendra Chahal to put the leg spinner under pressure before switching to the conventional sweep twice for additional boundaries.
He later exploited a free hit to smash a Shardul full toss for a six, reviving South Africa’s innings.
The highlight of van der Dussen’s thrilling knock was two pick up strokes on one knee for six over the deep backward square. He completed the sequence with nine fours and four sixes.
Bavuma was content to select singles at the other end, while anything loose was sent behind the ropes.
The skipper reached his century in the 45th over, while his batting partner did so in the 48th. It was both batters’ second ODI century.
Thakur’s final over went for 17 runs, bringing the hosts’ total to close to 300. Thakur was the most costly bowler, conceding 72 runs in his allotted ten overs. Venkatesh was not selected as the sixth bowler.