On the back of a blistering 55 from Dinesh Karthik and Avesh Khan scalping 4/18, India thrashed South Africa by 82 runs at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Friday.
Despite losing the toss for the fourth time in a row, India ended up on the winning side, meaning that the hosts levelled the five-match series 2-2, with Sunday’s match at Bengaluru now a winner takes it all affair.
After Karthik’s career-best efforts of 27-ball 55, hitting nine fours and two sixes at a strike-rate of 203.7 apart from sharing a 65-run stand off 33 balls with Hardik Pandya (46 off 31 balls) propelled India to a competitive 169/6, South Africa were never in the chase from the word go, with only three batters reaching double figures and crashed to 87 all out in 16.5 overs, with Avesh being pick of bowlers with his career-best figures in this format of the game.
With India’s bowlers hitting hard lengths consistently, seamers finding variable bounce and spinners keeping things tight while getting hint of turn, it was difficult for South Africa to chase 170. It was the bounce which hit captain Temba Bavuma on the shoulder off Bhuvneshwar Kumar. But while taking a single off Avesh Khan, Bavuma injured his left elbow and had to retire hurt for eight.
With the visitors struggling with their timing and Bavuma leaving the crease, one could feel that South Africa could slip in trouble. A massive mix-up for a quick single resulted in Quinton de Kock run-out for 14. In the next over, Dwaine Pretorius tried to break free from dot-ball pressure by slogging but was caught behind off Avesh Khan for a six-ball duck.
Heinrich Klassen survived an lbw appeal on umpire’s call off Axar Patel in the eighth over. But in the next over, he failed to connect with the sweep off Yuzvendra Chahal and was trapped plumb in front of stumps. David Miller was the next batter to fall as Harshal got one to jag in and uproot the off-stump. In the 14th over, Avesh ensured that the South African challenge was as good as over.
He had Rassie van der Dussen holing out to deep mid-wicket, then rattled Marco Jansen with a bouncer and got him holing out to the same region on the very next ball. Avesh closed the over by having Keshav Maharaj caught easily at mid-on. Chahal and Axar wrapped up the innings by taking a wicket each to complete India’s thrashing of the Proteas.
Earlier, Karthik and Pandya’s efforts in the back end of the innings brought India a whopping 73 runs in the last five overs. This was in total contrast of them being 81/4 in 12.5 overs, especially losing the top-order in the first seven overs.
Ruturaj Gaikwad pushed hesitantly to back of a length ball from Lungi Ngidi, with the extra bounce taking edge to de Kock. Shreyas Iyer’s struggle against South Africa seamers continued when he was trapped lbw by an inswinger from debutant left-arm pacer Marco Jansen. Ishan Kishan hit Jansen for three fours and a six but fell immediately after power-play ended, undone by extra bounce off Anrich Nortje, edging behind to de Kock.
Rishabh Pant found it hard to break free and was almost dismissed in the 12th over when Maharaj flew to his right at backward point but couldn’t hold on. Pandya closed the over by clobbering Tabraiz Shamsi for successive wristy sixes over mid-wicket. Down on one knee, Pant tried to swipe a wide delivery off Maharaj, only to top-edge to short third man, making it Pant’s fourth straight dismissal to balls wide of off-stump.
After sweeping Maharaj for a boundary, Karthik smacked Anrich Nortje for a brace of fours through the off-side while Pandya cut through backward point to take 15 runs off the 16th over. Karthik went to smash three fours off Maharaj through sweep, reverse sweep and bisecting long-on and long-off perfectly.
It was Pretorius’ turn to be taken to cleaners by Karthik, slogging over deep square leg, followed by brace of fours with cut and sweep. Though Pandya fell by slicing to running third man off Ngidi, Karthik brought up his maiden T20I fifty by smoking Pretorius over cow corner for six, much to delight of the crowd. Despite Karthik picking deep square leg to perfection, it was sufficient for India to grab a much-needed win.