India to miss Rohit, Dhoni, Raina magic as South Africa threaten to unleash massive T20I challenge
Ahead of the India vs South Africa T20I series, a look at the five most impactful innings played by Indian batters against the Proteas on their soil.
India's gruelling tour of South Africa will begin with the T20Is, three of which will take place across Durban, Gqeberha and Johannesburg. With several youngsters auditioning for the T20 World Cup, the T20Is will go a long way in determining who all could be on the flight to the Caribbean for the T20 World Cup six months from now. With not many T20Is left between now and the ICC event starting June 3, every game holds the utmost significance for those whose spots are not yet guaranteed.
With only three days left until the series opener, join us as we stroll down memory lane, revisiting some timeless T20I performances delivered by Indian batters in South Africa. Despite the limited number of T20Is played by India against SA in the Proteas' territory – only six matches so far – each game has witnessed at least one unforgettable innings by an Indian batter. Here we go.
1 Dinesh Karthik: 31* in Johannesburg 2006
India's first ever T20I was against South Africa, in which Dinesh Karthik's icy-cool knock guided them home in a tense final over thriller. India were stepping into unfamiliar territory against the Proteas, who had jaywalked their way to 126/9 after the Indian bowler had put on a show. Zaheer Khan's phenomenal figures of 2/14 from 4 overs and Ajit Agarkar's 2/19 had limited SA to under 130. In response, India lost Sachin Tendulkar for 10 but Sehwag blazed away to 34 off 29. Despite not losing too many wickets, India's scoring rate was kept in check. When MS Dhoni, tailor-made for the format, was out for a duck, India's chances looked slim, but Karthik's 31 not out off 28 balls, including three fours and a six got India off their mark with a win on their T20I debut.
2 Rohit Sharma: 50* in Johannesburg, 2007
India took a gigantic step towards changing the landscape of T20 cricket when they won the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, where in the form of South Africa, Dhoni and his boys awaited a stern challenge. Batting first, India were reduced to 61/4, and looked in trouble when Dhoni and a young Rohit Sharma making his T20I debut came together and forged an 85-run partnership. While many remember the match for Dhoni's 45 off 33 balls, it was Rohit who took the skin off SA's bowlers with seven fours and three sixes. Rohit played some delicious strokes – an inside out slash over covers for six and pulled a waist-high full toss for a six off the last ball to bring up his fifty and take India to 153/5. The bowler responded brilliantly, with RP Singh shredding the South Africa top order at 5/31. RP's four and Sreesanth and Harbhajan's two scalps each gave India an easy 37-run win at the end and sent South Africa packing.
3 Suresh Raina: 41 in Durban, 2011
In a solid display of batting, India posted 168/6 on the back of a half-century from Rohit, but had it not been for Suresh Raina's explosiveness towards the end, the total could have been a lot lower. Virat Kohli and Rohit put on 49 in 4.5 overs, with India racing to 57 in the first six overs, and another 57 in the next eight. But Raina's assault will be remembered for the ages. Only a few months ago, Raina had carted this very attack to all parts of Gros Islet during the 2010 T20 World Cup and this, in a way, was just another extension of it. With India losing Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan for their score to read 136/5, Raina took flight with two fours and three sixes. Out came the inside out heave and the slog sixes that helped set India a competitive total. South Africa's meek surrender with the bat meant that they fell short by 21 runs. Rohit was adjudged Player of the Match, but Raina's innings was the one that really made a huge difference.
4 Shikhar Dhawan: 72 in Johannesburg, 2018
On a placid batting wicket, Shikhar Dhawan's half-century set India up for a huge total – 203/5. While some of his shots were authoritative – flicks off legs, and cuts and drives through the off-side, some were chancy – slogs and whips that took the edge and flow above the wicketkeeper. But Dhawan's batting that evening was the perfect embodiment of the T20 template – filled with expression and aggression. His runs came off just 39 deliveries – strike-rate of 184.6, including 10 boundaries and two sixes, and one that had done enough to give India a 1-0 lead in the series. Dhawan would have been the Player of the Match but the honour belonged to Bhuvneshwar Kumar for his five-wicket-haul that limited SA to 175/9.
5 MS Dhoni: 52* in Centurion, 2018
At 37, Dhoni played like a 27-year-old as he bludgeoned only his second T20I fifty. It was vintage Dhoni as he went on a boundary-hitting spree from the word go. He walked out to bat in the 11th over after India were dented at 90/4, and stayed on till the very end, adding an unbroken 98-run partnership with Manish Pandey. Dhoni did not take long to get going, clubbing a six off the seventh ball he faced. Despite Pandey contributing 79 not out off 48 balls, Dhoni was the aggressor in India creaming 55 of the last five. In the last two overs, Dhoni gave India the final flourish, smoking two fours and three sixes, but his efforts were overshadowed by half-centuries from Heinrich Klaasen and JP Duminy, who chased down a target of 189 with eight balls remaining.
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