Spurred by skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s masterful 92, Indian bowlers responded well in a low-scoring encounter at Indore on Wednesday. South Africa were bundled out for 225 while chasing a target of 247.
Dhoni was forced to bring on Axar Patel and Harbhajan Singh early on in the innings due to the wayward bowling of pacers Bhuvneshvar Kumar and Umesh Yadav at the start of the Proteas innings
Operating in tandem, not only did the spinners put a brake on the run flow, they even kept picking wickets at regular intervals.
South Africa chose to play conventional cricket: less enterprising, more accumulating. Du Plessis and JP Duminy took the score past 134, the inevitability of a South African come back was just about to repeat itself. Duminy and du Plessis didn’t sweat much since Umesh Yadav was generously spending runs on them. South Africa seemed to be heading towards the victory line.
Patel proved why Dhoni is insisting spin is India’s strength. Within seven runs Patel sent both ominous looking Duminy and du Plessis duo back to the pavilion. Spurred on by the twist in the plot, Bhuvneshawar Kumar exploited David Miller’s poor form. Soon Virat Kohli made for his disappointment in the run out mix-up earlier in the day by pulling off a spectacular catch to send dangerous de Villiers back.
In spite of a late resistance by the South African tailenders, Indian bowlers held their nerves to pull off a much needed victory to stay afloat in the series.
Earlier, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni struck a fighting 92 not out as India came back from a precarious 104-5 to post a challenging 247. Dhoni struck four sixes and seven fours, giving a fine display of batting with the lower order.
The nudges, quick singles, shot-arm jabs, pulls, cuts, lofted shots over the bowler’s head all were on full display as Dhoni answered back his critics with his knock that came off 86 balls. India scored 82 runs off the last 10 overs.
Up the order, Ajinkya Rahane yet again batted well, scoring 63-ball 51, his second consecutive fifty.
For South Africa, Dale Steyn (3/49) picked up three wickets while Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir scalped two apiece.
The hosts suffered a big setback in the form of Rohit Sharma, who was cleaned up by young paceman Kagiso Rabada the second over of the day.
With this win, India have levelled the series 1-1 and both teams will look to gain an upper hand in the next ODI scheduled to be played at Rajkot on Sunday.
(For statistics and commentary, click here)