Beaten by a mile

The 20-year-old de Kock, revelling in his home town, distracted the spinners with his prancing feet at the crease and was equally smug against the seamers. K.C. Vijaya Kumar reports.

The Indian team landed in Johannesburg on December 2 after a nine-hour transcontinental flight and on the very same day, strode out to train at the Wanderers Stadium. All that effort — at trying to adjust to the conditions in the Southern hemisphere and of dreaming about starting a tour on a winning note — came to nought as South Africa whipped India by 141 runs in the opening game of the three-match ODI series on a Thursday night (December 5), that later turned out to be a time for grief and remembrance as the Rainbow Nation’s patriarch Nelson Mandela passed away.

Much before Mandela’s demise became global news and as grief and respect radiated from Johannesburg to the rest of the world, India was again coping with a false-start, a frailty that affects the squad mostly when it crosses the seas. Chasing South Africa’s 358 for four, India mustered 217, a defeat that could have been even more worse but for the resistance and determination that M. S. Dhoni (65) displayed while essaying a fighting fifty in a losing cause.

Earlier, the Indian skipper won the toss, opted to field and hoped that his seamers would scalp a few in their opening spells. That dream came to nought as Mohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, especially the latter, failed to impress. The deliveries were a bit short and that gave enough leeway for the South African openers — Hashim Amla (65) and centurion Quinton de Kock (135, 121b, 18x4, 3x6) — to find their feet and dig deep.

The duo added 152 runs at a steady rate which effectively negated the seamers as well as the middle-over choke that spinners are expected to inflict. The promising clues were the fours that de Kock picked off Bhuvneshwar in the day’s second over, truly deft incisions on either side of the pitch and the scoreboard ticked over at a safe-rate that can give mutual funds a complex: 53 in 10 overs, 44 in the next 10.

Amla cut the bowlers at will while de Kock unnerved the Indian attack with his blend of orthodoxy — drives at will; and impishness — sweeps and scoops, and all that defines a modern-day batsman ever alert to the charms of Twenty20 in the limited sense and ODIs in the larger scale. India found brief-succour as Mohammad Shami dismissed Amla and Jacques Kallis but de Kock continued his run-scoring ways.

The 20-year-old, revelling in his home town, distracted the spinners with his prancing feet at the crease and was equally smug against the seamers before tapping one straight back to part-timer bowler Virat Kohli. But by then his second ODI ton had done enough to draw comparisons with the great Mark Boucher, who had to leave the sport due to an eye-injury. De Kock’s dismissal hardly impeded South Africa’s progress as the host captain AB de Villiers and J. P. Duminy scattered the rival attack in a partnership that yielded 105 runs for the fourth-wicket, off just 46 deliveries.

India’s chase entirely depended on its top-order to stymie the horrors that Dale Steyn could inflict but all three in-form batsmen — Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli — flopped. Dhawan played aggressively but failed to strike roots; Rohit gave respect to Steyn’s fantastic spell but his lazy-feet meant that he had to depart after a run-out while Kohli fell to Ryan McLaren. India though would believe that it was Steyn’s spells upfront that knifed the team’s heart and there was no mistaking the speedster’s impact.

While Steyn infused fear and froze the batsmen’s feet, McLaren castled Yuvraj Singh for a duck and India was left searching for a foot-hold for the rest of the contest, though Dhoni stretched the climax that had a foregone conclusion: an emphatic victory for the Proteas.

Besides the obvious symbolism of a maiden clash in a tour marred by off-field politics between the BCCI and Cricket South Africa, the match was also a reflection of the social-conscience of cricket as the venue was awash in pink, a shade that the Proteas too adopted in a bid to spread awareness about breast cancer. Every four and six generated funds for the fight against cancer and even in that India emerged second-best.

THE SCORES

South Africa: Hashim Amla b Shami 65, Quinton de Kock c & b Kohli 135, Jacques Kallis c Jadeja b Shami 10, AB de Villiers b Shami 77, J. P. Duminy (not out) 59, David Miller (not out) 5. Extras (lb-2, w-4, nb-1): 7. Total (for four wkts., in 50 overs): 358.

Fall of wickets: 1-152, 2-172, 3-247, 4-352.

India bowling: Mohit Sharma 10-0-82-0, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 9-0-68-0, Mohammad Shami 10-1-68-3, R. Ashwin 10-0-58-0, Ravindra Jadeja 8-0-58-0, Suresh Raina 1-0-7-0, Virat Kohli 2-0-15-1.

India: Rohit Sharma (run out) 18, Shikhar Dhawan c de Kock b Morkel 12, Virat Kohli c Kallis b McLaren 31, Yuvraj Singh b McLaren 0, Suresh Raina (run out) 14, M. S. Dhoni b Steyn 65, Ravindra Jadeja b Kallis 29, R. Ashwin c de Kock b McLaren 19, Bhuvneshwar Kumar c Kallis b Steyn 0, Mohit Sharma (not out) 0, Mohammad Shami c & b Steyn 0. Extras (b-4, lb-1, w-24): 29. Total (in 41 overs): 217.

Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-60, 3-60, 4-65, 5-108, 6-158, 7-183, 8-190, 9-217.

South Africa bowling: Dale Steyn 8-3-25-3, Lonwabo Tsotsobe 9-0-52-0, Morne Morkel 8-1-29-1, Ryan McLaren 8-0-49-3, Wayne Parnell 5-0-37-0, Jacques Kallis 3-0-20-1.