When everything went right for India!

India had two heroes, Ashwin and Kohli, while South Africa had none of the same stature. By Shreedutta Chidananda.

Few things seem beyond the scope of Virat Kohli’s bat. India had a target of 173 to scale down against a driven South African attack but he reduced the chase to a doddle. He made an unbeaten 72 (44 balls), M. S. Dhoni graciously dead-batting the only ball he faced so that Kohli might score the winning runs, as India cruised to a six-wicket win with five balls to spare.

But Kohli’s innings was significant for what he didn’t do than what he did. This was not one of those days where he just turned up and boomed away from the first delivery. The majority of his runs came in ones and twos; he was 17 off 16 when he struck his first boundary, a fierce hit over long on.

“Cricket is played more between your ears than your technique,” he said later. “If you can mentally be strong then you can tell yourself to stay on the wicket. Today, till about 20 runs I didn’t hit a boundary. It’s about staying patient and staying calm and not thinking about how many runs or balls are remaining. That’s something I try to do and try to keep myself in that zone. There is no secret. Everyone wants to do well, everyone wants to score.”

Kohli ensured India got within striking distance before going after Dale Steyn. The South Africa captain Faf du Plessis took Steyn off after his first over, withholding the other three overs for the death. But by then, the game was nearly over and Steyn did not have too many runs to play with.

“It’s important to put pressure on a world class bowler like Dale. That’s why the key is to score off the other bowlers so that he doesn’t have too many runs to defend. That’s why if you take six or seven runs off him when he comes to pick wickets, it’s more frustrating for the opposition. The plan was to not give him wickets. I think we ended up scoring 11 an over off him and that wasn’t the plan at all. Once you start frustrating the opposition and not allow them to stick to their plans, the game starts falling in your way and that’s what we decided to do,” Kohli explained later.

A golden opportunity was missed in the 17th, when Steyn was momentarily taken off — so that he could bowl the 18th and thus the 20th — and Wayne Parnell introduced. India still needed 40 off the last four and a new batsman in Suresh Raina was at the crease. It would have been the ideal time to throw Steyn on, but du Plessis relented. India took 17 off the over, Raina helping himself to three fours, and the contest was killed.

“You can look at it both ways; if Steyn had bowled the 17th and Parnell the 18th, you would have asked me the same question,” du Plessis said later. “We’ve got death bowlers in our side and they all have a job to do. The batsmen out-skilled us tonight. But I always knew that if the game was close, Dale had to bowl 18 and 20. Unfortunately that over went for a little bit too many. That’s how it goes sometimes.”

Earlier, India had R. Ashwin to thank for limiting South Africa to 172. He dismissed Hashim Amla with a brute of a carom ball just when the run rate had begun heading north and then came back to get rid of du Plessis and A.B. de Villiers at critical junctures.

THE SCORES

South Africa: Quinton de Kock c Dhoni b Bhuvneshwar 6, Hashim Amla b Ashwin 22, Faf du Plessis b Ashwin 58, J. P. Duminy (not out) 45, A. B. de Villiers c Rohit b Ashwin 10, David Miller (not out) 23; Extras (b-1, lb-3, w-3, nb-1) 8, Total (for four wickets in 20 overs): 172.

Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-44, 3-115, 4-129.

India bowling: Bhuvneshwar Kumar 4-0-33-1, Mohit Sharma 3-0-34-0, R. Ashwin 4-0-22-3, Ravindra Jadeja 2-0-8-0, Suresh Raina 4-0-35-0, Amit Mishra 3-0-36-0.

India: Rohit Sharma c du Plessis b Hendricks 24, Ajinkya Rahane c de Villiers b Parnell 32, Virat Kohli (not out) 72, Yuvraj Singh c de Villiers b Tahir 18, Suresh Raina c du Plessis b Hendricks 21, M. S. Dhoni (not out) 0, Extras (w-9) 9, Total (for four wickets in 19.1 overs) 176.

Fall of wickets: 1-39, 2-77, 3-133, 4-167.

South Africa bowling: Duminy 3-0-29-0, Albie Morkel 2-0-17-0, Steyn 3.1-0-36-0, Hendricks 4-0-31-2, Parnell 3-0-33-1, Tahir 4-0-30-1.