World Cup 2019: Chahal takes four as India restricts South Africa to 227

South Africa was restricted to a modest 227/9 in Southampton after Yuzvendra Chahal returned with a four-wicket haul.

Yuzvendra Chahal celebrates after dismissing David Miller in India's match against South Africa.   -  AFP Photo

It was a tale of spin and other turns at the Hampshire Oval here on a Wednesday that dawned with bright sunshine before a grey shroud slid across the skies. Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (four for 51) spun a web, South Africa turned vulnerable, revealed a sting in its tail and at the lunch-break, India perhaps had the better appetite after having restricted the Proteas to 227 for nine in 50 overs. 

The World Cup match’s initial minutes were all about nervous energy and excitement with the Indian fans adding their touch of colour and heightened decibel levels from the stands. Faf du Plessis won the toss and the South African captain elected to bat but what ensued did not fit the ideal template of ODIs, often built upon blazing willows and cascading shots and for this course-correction, the Indians deserve credit.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar kept it tight and Jasprit Bumrah was a clear and present danger. Quinton de Kock nearly chopped Bumrah onto his stumps, escaped being run-out and was largely a fidgety presence but it was his senior partner Hashim Amla, who departed first. Bumrah homed in, the delivery’s angle forcing Amla to cover the line and just as his bat pushed forward, the ball deviated a wee-bit and the extra bounce proved to be the sucker-punch. The edge was brushed and the catch sailed to Rohit Sharma at second-slip.

Read: Chahal torments South Africa again

At 11 for one in the fourth over, South Africa was tentative and it got worse when de Kock’s intended drive off Bumrah warmed an agile Kohli’s palms at third slip. On Tuesday, du Plessis had spoken at length about how his unit feeds off his energy and the need to stay strong. He backed those words to some extent through a 54-run partnership for the third-wicket with Rassie van der Dussen.

It was a steady alliance while the skies turned dark. Hardik Pandya, however, found his own light, running in hard and hustling the batsmen. Twice he struck du Plessis on the glove and the abandoned bat succumbed to gravity. Importantly for South Africa, its captain stood firm and he and der Dussen handled Kuldeep Yadav with relative comfort.

But just as the middle overs seemed imminent, India inflicted a double-blow in the 20th over. The killer punches were albeit delivered slowly as Chahal with his wiry presence, springy steps and a big grin, rolled his arm over. der Dussen attempted a pre-meditated reverse-sweep and was bowled around his legs. The timber-rattle continued and in the same over, Chahal slid one straight to beat du Plessis’ bat.

Soon, Kuldeep joined the party and rapped J.P. Duminy’s pads and South Africa was struggling at 89 for five in 22.6 overs. It was time for the second recovery act and a partial one emerged thanks to David Miller and Andile Phehlukwayo adding 46 runs for the sixth wicket. The latter displayed an aggressive veneer while the former, after doing the hard yards, chipped one back to a delighted Chahal.

Phehlukwayo, meanwhile, continued unhindered, clouting a six off Kuldeep to help South Africa breach the 150-mark. But there was no denying Chahal and the leg-spinner lured Phehlukwayo down the wicket and M.S. Dhoni, despite a rare fumble, still managed to effect his customary stumping.

South Africa then found a late wind through the blades of Chris Morris and Kagiso Rabada. The two shared a 66-run eighth-wicket partnership and batted with refreshing freedom. Morris clouted a few sixes and drilled some fours as the Proteas gained some traction in the slog.