The Indian bench had the perfect opportunity to show its strength on Saturday, with as many as seven regulars not taking the field for the last match of this series. They, however, made a proper mess of the chance and India sunk to an embarrassing 90-run defeat in front of a packed house.
The defeat has not only deprived India of a chance to register their first ever clean sweep against South Africa, but also showed the second string in poor light, especially the pace attack. The pace trio, comprising S Sreesanth, Sudeep Tyagi and debutant Abhimanyu Mithun not only leaked runs profusely, but, more worryingly, failed to take even a single wicket between them, allowing the South Africans to amass a huge total of 365 for the loss of only two wickets.
The bowlers’ patchy show left the batsmen with a mountain to climb on a rather scuffed-up surface. Even with odds stacked highly against them, one would have expected a better fight from the batsmen. While Dinesh Karthik and M. Vijay didn’t stay at the crease long, Rohit Sharma (48) and Virat Kohli (57) did put up some resistance. The duo, however, never dominated the attack, and when they fell, only to be followed in quick succession by MS Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan, India were out of the game. Suresh Raina (49) and Ravindra Jadeja tried to stage a recovery, but they were always fighting a lost battle.
Returning to the bowling, the fact that Dhoni gave the last over to Rohit Sharma, even though all three pacers had overs left to bowl tells you how much confidence the captain had in his quick men. The wicket offered little assistance to them — it had neither much bounce nor any movement — but giving away a whopping 88 runs in the last five overs can’t be justified on any grounds. They had no clue whatsoever when Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers turned the heat on them with some amazing strokeplay. de Villiers was in amazing touch as he rushed to an unbeaten ton off only 59 deliveries. The feat was all the more creditable as he walked out to the middle as late as the 33rd over, and yet managed to get the three-figure mark. Kallis, too, revealed his aggressive instincts in a 94-ball ton. He scored fifty in 68 balls with just one boundary, and the next came in just 26 balls, studded with four boundaries and three sixes.
Spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan did a decent job in tightening things in the middle overs, slowing down the scoring a bit after Loots Bosman (67) and Hashim Amla (87) got the visitors off to a rousing start.
The seamers, however, undid whatever little good work they had done.
South Africa: 365 for 2 in 50 overs (Jacques Kallis 104 not out, A B de Villiers 102 not out, Hashim Amla 87, Ravindra Jadeja 1/53).
India: 275 all out in 44.3 overs (Virat Kohli 57, Suresh Raina 49, Rohit Sharma 48; Dale Styne 3/37, Lonwabo Tsotsobe 3/58).