MS Dhoni perhaps can’t blame his bowlers for almost losing the match they had in their pockets. He trimmed down the attack to its bare minimum strength — he went into the match with just three regular bowlers and without a specialist spinner — but the bowlers just about held their own to script a memorable one-run victory despite a fighting all-round effort from Jacques Kallis (89 run and three wickets) and a heroic 65-run run partnership between Wayne Parnell and Dale Steyn for the ninth wicket.
The idea to pack the side with eight batsmen and three bowlers was prompted by the thought that spinners would struggle to grip the ball in the second half because of the dew.
The eight batsmen were supposed to raise a total beyond South Africa’s reach, and the three bowlers, with the help of part timers, were then expected to hold the fort. They almost did, until Parnell and Steyn fought back from an impossible situation. South Africa were completely out of the game when Kallis departed for 89, leaving the team reeling at 225 for 8. Parnell (49-47 balls) and Steyn (35-19 balls) launched the fierce fight-back from here, and brought themselves within a winning position, requiring just ten runs off the last over. Praveen Kumar, however, held his nerves to eke out a thrilling one-run win for the team.
While Dhoni’s gamble almost backfired in the second half, it had a partial success in the first half. It worked in the sense that India needed all eight batsmen to come out and score, but given that they still ended up scoring a below 300 total (298 for 9), a par total on an apparently flat wicket, the gamble obviously didn’t work as much as they would have wanted.
India were off to a poor start with Sachin Tendulkar getting run out in the second over. Sehwag and Dinesh Karthik, however, soon got the innings back on the track.
While Sehwag played the way he does, Karthik also impressed with his strokes. All seemed well until Karthik’s straight drive kissed the bowler’s hand before crashing onto the stumps to leave Sehwag stranded outside his crease.
The thought that they have eight batsmen allowed India to keep the foot on the accelerator even after the dismissal of Sachin and Sehwag. However, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina had to slow down the proceedings a bit after Karthik and Dhoni fell in quick succession, reducing India at 138 for 4. Nevertheless, Raina’s 66-run partnership with Kohli and contributions from the lower order pushed India close to 300.