First with the bat and later with the ball, South Africa struck India between the ears. As a result, the outcome became a foregone conclusion in the rain-shortened 40-over-a-side One-Day International in Lucknow.
Eventually, if the nine-run margin of victory for South Africa was far less than impressive, it was due to some late flourish by Sanju Samson (86 not out, 63b, 9x4, 3x4). With 30 runs needed off the final over, bowled by Tabraiz Shamsi, Samson hit 19 of the 20 runs scored.
In fact, once half-centurions Heinrich Klassen and David Miller pulled South Africa out of the tightening Indian grip with an unconquered 139-run stand before Kagiso Rabada and Wayne Parnell delivered early blows, the host was always behind in the game.
Chasing 250, India lost openers Shubman Gill and skipper Shikhar Dhawan cheaply. They fell during a spell of 25 successive dot-balls that included three maiden overs - two from Rabada and one from Parnell. In conditions that assisted swing and movement, the pace duo bowled a disciplined line and hit the right length.
While left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj kept the Indians on a tight leash, Ishan Krishan and debutant Ruturaj Gaikwad also disappointed to leave India reeling at 51/4.
Shreyas Iyer’s 37-ball half-century, during a 67-run stand with a fortuitous Sanju Samson, followed. Samson, after some early struggle, delighted the crowd with some big hits and raised 93 runs with Shardul Thakur (33) but the asking rate kept rising.
Earlier, the rain God relented in response to the prayers of those in the half-filled stadium. Toss went Dhawan’s way and bowlers nearly justified the decision to put South Africa in.
After a near half-century opening stand, Shardul Thakur struck twice and Kuldeep Yadav once in the space of 21 runs to put India on top.
Bishnoi trapped Quinton de Kock at 48 for his maiden ODI wicket. At this stage, India looked in control. But Miller and Heinrich Klaasen slowly took charge.
Miller scored his 18th ODI half century and Klassen reached his fourth as they matched each other’s strike-rate and sent the ball past the boundary rope eight times each. If Miller’s arrival lifted the team’s scoring rate, Klaasen made up for his sedate start to provide a late flourish. The duo benefited from India’s continued woes in ‘death’ overs, misfieldings and dropped catches.
Just when Miller and Klassen were looking for big hits, Siraj and Gaekwad dropped catches off Avesh Khan who conceded 28 runs off the 54 scored in the last five overs. Bishnoi, despite his lone wicket, proved the most expensive. Kuldeep Yadav was impressive but Thakur could have ended with an even better analysis.
Over all, on this day, South Africa proved clearly superior. It will take some serious work from the Indians, on Sunday, to level the series in Ranchi.