India endured another ordinary day in the field as South Africa outplayed the home team by 49 runs to prevent a clean sweep of the series in the third and final T20I at the Holkar Stadium here on Tuesday.
The conditions admittedly favoured the batters, with short boundaries and a dream of a pitch making it ideal for the willow wielders to hammer away. But India, without doubt, could have bowled a bit better and definitely fielded much better in what was its last T20I outing before the World Cup begins in Australia later this month.
Asked to bat first, superlative efforts from Quinton de Kock (68, 43b, 6x4, 4x6) and Rilee Rossouw (100 n.o., 48b, 7x4, 8x6) – even as skipper Temba Bavuma failed again (3, 8b) – ensured that the visitor made a mammoth 227 for three.
India, already a batter short with both KL Rahul and Virat Kohli rested and only Shreyas Iyer coming in, buckled under scoreboard pressure. It was off to a disastrous start, losing Rohit Sharma off the second ball, bowled by Kagiso Rabada via an inside edge. In the next over, Wayne Parnell trapped Shreyas in front for just one.
That brought Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik together, two batters who needed batting time. Pant (27, 14b, 3x4, 2x6) hit Lungi Ngidi for two fours and two sixes in the fifth over, but fell off the last ball of the same over, taken at cover-point by Tristan Stubbs.
Karthik fared better, driving, flicking and slog-sweeping his way to 46 (21b, 4x4, 4x6) before Keshav Maharaj castled him while attempting a reverse scoop. When Suryakumar Yadav (8, 6b) fell to a splendid diving catch by Stubbs at deep-point off Dwaine Pretorius, India needed 142 from 72 balls. The match was as good as over.
Earlier, speedster Arshdeep Singh sat out of the match with back trouble – deemed “precautionary” by skipper Rohit – and in came Mohammed Siraj and Umesh Yadav. But de Kock and Rossouw spared neither bowler, putting on 90 runs for the second wicket.
de Kock, who could have been run out first ball if Shreyas had nailed a direct hit from mid-off, batted with great freedom, the kind of which had deserted him of late. The 29-year-old feasted on the leg-side, hitting Siraj, Deepak Chahar and Umesh for sixes. His stand-out shot was however the reverse swept six off Ravichandran Ashwin.
Once de Kock was run out to a splendid throw from Shreyas from the deep midwicket area, Rossouw assumed full charge, putting on 87 runs with Stubbs (23, 18b, 2x4, 1x6).
Rossouw has none of de Kock’s crash-and-burn touch. Neither are his strokes as snappy and fast. But on the day, he was more devastating than his illustrious compatriot. Reprieved on 24 by Siraj at deep backward square-leg off Ashwin, Rossouw covered the entire arc on the leg-side, hitting sixes at will. When the Indians bowled full and wide, he was equal to the task, splitting the field behind square on the off-side with ease.
The scooped six over fine-leg off Harshal Patel late in the innings showed his confidence. Not long after came the hundred, his maiden century, off just 48 balls. Amidst this, there was a comic moment when Chahar could have run Stubbs out at the non-striker’s end for backing up outside the crease. But he chose not to and grinned ear-to-ear.
The smiles were short-lived as David Miller provided South Africa with the perfect finishing kick, clubbing Chahar for three successive sixes in the final over. The last of these was caught by Siraj at deep-square, except that he stepped on to the boundary with the ball in hand. Indian shoulders slumped and they never rose again.