India loses another chase against SA

Towards the end, South African skipper AB De Villiers, shuffled his bowlers and changed his field, which tightened the screws on the Indian batsmen. Leg-spinner Imran Tahir and offie JP Duminy bowled tight lengths and stifled them for runs. And, man-of-the-match Morne Morkel picked crucial wickets of Dhoni and Kohli.

Morne Morkel's four crucial wickets brought South Africa back into the game.   -  Vivek Bendre

Quinton de Kock scored his fourth ton against India.   -  AP

Virat Kohli scored a fine half-century before getting out to Morkel for 77   -  Vivek Bendre

Chasing 271, there wasn’t much to worry for India, as they had eight wickets in hand and MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli looking set in the middle at the end of 40 overs. They needed 86 off the last ten. But South Africa pulled it back fantastically to win the match by 18 runs and go 2-1 up in the five-match ODI series, here on Sunday.

Towards the end, South African skipper AB De Villiers, shuffled his bowlers and changed his field, which tightened the screws on the Indian batsmen. Leg-spinner Imran Tahir and offie JP Duminy bowled tight lengths and stifled them for runs.

The end game began in over 41. Morne Morkel dug in the fifth ball short of length; Dhoni (47 off 61) tried to glide it over third man but couldn’t connect cleanly and lobbed a catch to Steyn. India now needed 78 from eight overs.

Tahir then outwitted Suresh Raina on the second ball he faced. Morkel (4-39) dismissed Kohli as he heaved the ball in the air to Miller at deep midwicket. That was the last nail in the coffin.

India’s chase began well, with opener Rohit Sharma leaning into boundaries against pacers Steyn and Rabada. Morkel at backward square leg missed a chance when the batsman pulled, with the ball going through the fielder’s hands.

Shikhar Dhawan got out in an attempt to drive, guiding the ball on the off stump to de Villiers who took it after a little tumble. India’s 50 came off 12.2 overs, slower than South Africa (who took 8.3 overs) indicating the dot balls consumed in between stylish strokes.

De Villiers banked on Rabada’s raw pace and leg-spinner Tahir’s spin to put a check on in-form Sharma and Kohli. The opener walked to swat a six over Tahir’s head to cross the half-century mark in 65 balls. At this stage, India were on course at 100-1 in 22 overs.

South Africa sensed a turnaround when the other slow bowler, Duminy foxed Rohit by adjusting his length and pouched a tame return catch. Sharma had done his part with a stylish 65 (74 balls, 7x4, 2x6) but failed to complete the task. India were 124/2 at the halfway stage (147 runs behind) after 25 overs.

Earlier in the match, the Rajkot heat and a slow track kept South African ambitions in check after a cautious 72-run opening stand, followed by 118 off 122 balls between Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis for the third wicket. The former fell to a fatigue-induced error of judgement, run out for 103 (118 balls, 11x4, 1x6).

The visitors were poised for a huge score when du Plessis left the stage at 205-3, 11 overs remaining for maestro AB de Villiers, maverick JP Duminy and hard-hitting Farhan Behardien to attack the hosts. South Africa fell short of expectations, managing only 270.

Dhoni backed his instinct and played three spinners. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh (1-41) and leggie Amit Mishra (1-38) bowled in tandem, restricting the visitors from scoring big. Left-arm spinner Patel (1-51) paired with seamer Mohit Sharma (2-62) to get the crucial wickets of de Villiers and du Plesis.

Quinton opened up near the 10-over mark, stroking consecutive fours off Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. Harbhajan snared Miller, when the latter sliced it to Rahane at backward point. Mishra celebrated his first wicket when Amla was out of the crease, attempting a drive and Dhoni whipped off the bails.

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