SA ODI: Despite Dhoni's fight, India lose by 141 runs
As it often happens abroad, India began badly in their tour opener at the Wanderers Stadium at Johannesburg on Thursday. But failing on all counts in such miserable fashion was more horrifying than expected.india Updated: Jan 13, 2014 20:20 IST
As it often happens abroad, India began badly in their tour opener. But the start to the month-long tour at the Wanderers Stadium at Johannesburg in South Africa was more horrifying than expected as India failed on all counts and did so miserably.
Opening bowlers, Mohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, erred in length failing to put early pressure on the hosts while the fielders struggled with judgement. And then, to top it all the bounce that the strong, robust South African pacemen extracted from the Wanderers track that had looked like a placid track in the first half, left the Indian batsmen embarrassed.
But perhaps, that's what the wicket and playing away from home does. AB de Villiers had warned the inexperienced Indians on Wednesday, and he was dead right.
With a weak bowling line-up, Dhoni had to back his batsmen to chase down a total, so he elected to field almost as the first thought. The par score on these South African tracks is below 300, so the decision couldn't be faulted with.
The early start did vindicate his decision as South Africa, not exactly the likes who go hammer and tongs at the beginning, ambled along. Hashim Amla looked solid and local boy Quinton de Kock hung on before opening up.
Kock looked in excellent touch, hitting the hosts all over the park for 135 that came off 121 balls, studded with 18 fours and three sixes. The opening pair put up a stand of 152.
When Mohammed Shami did strike in the 30th over, removing Amla with an off-cutter to break the first wicket partnership, the visitors were already in a world of trouble.
Three overs later, a dangerous looking Jaques Kallis (10) spooned a full length delivery to cover, giving Shami his second wicket.
However, Kock remained resolute until the 42nd over when he played a loose drive to Kohli, sending the ball straight back into his hands. Though India could have capitalised at this moment, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy made sure nothing of that sort happened.
Captain de Villiers, with his improvised and nonchalant batting, racked up 77 in 47 balls while JP Duminy hammered 39-ball 59. Both did their best to add to the kitty of breast cancer awareness campaign collections, hitting nine sixes.
The two plundered a 100 runs in the last six overs leaving a mammoth total of 358 for the visitors to chase. Given that this is a team that has chased such totals down with panache several times in the recent past, it seemed doable.
But when the hosts came out to ball, the pitch looked like a completely new one. Proteas bowlers could move the ball at will. It just reflects the difference in skills and experience between the two bowling sides and it could well define the rest of the series.
The ball went flying around, occasionally head high, and the top three batsmen, the backbone of Indian innings in these past few months, and who had given the selectors the license to chuck all the senior players, were done in by bounce and movement.
Morne Morkel drew first blood, getting rid of Shikhar Dhawan (12) with a particularly nasty bouncer that the Indian opener tried to pull but ended up sending the ball sky high, which 'keeper de Kock caught after an impressive run backwards.
Virat Kohli (31) looked brilliant after surviving an early testing period but then this wicket had just too much to allow Indian players to play through the line, something they are used to. Ryan McLaren had him caught at first slip when he followed a bouncer with one that kept low.
The middle order had been exposed and the stage was set for Yuvraj Singh to justify his return to the side. That was not to be, as he left two balls later without troubling the scorers.
That left MS Dhoni in the middle, fighting for dear pride. The captain showed some signs of positive intent but kept losing partners one after the other on the other end. A poor call ended Rohit Sharma’s agonizing stay at the wicket while Suresh Raina (13) got out chasing a run that wasn't there.
There were several times when partnerships seemed to be about to bloom but the hosts kept taking regular wickets to nip an Indian fightback in the bud.
The visitors were 158/6 after 30 overs with Dhoni (65) and Jadeja (29) having added 50 runs for the sixth wicket. But just when he seemed to have settled down, a slower delivery from Jacques Kallis disturbed his furniture, leaving the Indians to slump to 217 all out at the end of 41 overs.
In hindsight, India could have played Umesh Yadav or Ishant Sharma for either pace or bounce they bring in with them, but then few captains change winning combinations. After this though, Dhoni may have to rethink.
Commentary, India Innings: