India were apparently fighting a lost battle when the skies opened up during the fourth ODI at St George’s Park here on Friday. Chasing a stiff target of 266 on a sluggish track, India had lost six wickets for 137 runs and needed another 129 runs when rain stopped the play.
According to the Duckworth Lewis system, India would lose the game by 50 runs if the match had to be called off at this stage. In case of resumption, India’s hopes rest on Virat Kohli, who had waged a lone battle with an unbeaten 83.
The Delhi batsman played a superb knock even as the other batsmen fell around him without making any significant contributions. He looked in prime touch right from the start and played some spectacular drives, flicks off his pads, and awesome straight sixes off spinners.
Earlier, South Africa did well to recover from a mini collapse in the middle to eventually reach a fighting total of 265 for seven. The hosts were going great guns at 111 for two with Hashim Amla dictating terms to the India bowlers. The South African opener became the fastest to reach the 2000-run mark in ODIs on Friday, something surprising given that Amla, not too long ago, wasn’t considered good enough for this format. The critics felt he couldn’t find gaps regularly enough, didn’t have enough strokes to score at a brisk pace, and, most importantly, lacked the intent required to succeed in ODIs.
But he seems to have overcome all his actual and supposed weaknesses, as evident in his fluent half century on Friday. Once he settled down, he didn’t shy away from playing his booming drives that could be dangerous on a slow wicket as this one, and used the pull to good effect when the situation demanded.
Amla’s rhythm wasn’t disrupted even when pacers gave way to spinners. He looked completely in control as he nudged them around with soft hands. A moment of indiscretion that saw him run for a non-existent second, however, cut short what looked a very promising knock. And that moment of madness triggered a collapse and South Africa were soon reduced from an impressive 111 for two to 118 for five. However, JP Duminy hit a typically gritty half-century to put the South African innings back on track.
Dhoni injury scare
India skipper MS Dhoni, who hurt his knee on Thursday, turned out for the match and kept wickets even though Parthiv Patel, the other wicket-keeper played the game. In the middle of the match, Dhoni took off his pads and Parthiv kept the wickets thereafter. Prior to that, India physiotherapist Paul Close had also dashed at once to the middle to check on his knee.
Wasn’t the India skipper fully fit? In case he wasn’t, wasn’t he taking a risk with the World Cup not too far away? This match, too, was important, but what if the injury was aggravated?