Sunday was supposed to be the night where India would be using their experience of a ten-day camp in Perth from early October in their important Super 12 match of Men’s T20 World Cup against South Africa. But barring Rohit Sharma winning the toss and fast bowlers reducing South Africa to 24/3 in 5.3 overs, nothing went their way at all.
Moreover, they also had to deal with their first-choice wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik, who made six runs with the bat, had to walk off the field during South Africa’s run-chase due to a lower back injury. In his absence, Rishabh Pant took up keeping duties for the rest of the match.
“He had some issues with his back. I didn’t meet him after this (match ended). We’ll get to know what’s happening once we go back to the hotel, whatever the physio gives the report,” said senior pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the post-match press conference.
On a typically pacy and bouncy Perth pitch, South Africa’s bowlers called the shots with excellent usage of short ball and mixed with pace, made for a lethal combination which the four-man pace attack, led by Lungi Ngidi’s 4/29, made India’s batting nightmares come true as their score of 133/9 in 20 overs showed.
When Aiden Markram and David Miller were shifting gears in the second half of chasing 134, India had some chances to pull themselves back on the field via catching, a department South Africa had excelled in the first innings.
But India let go of chances on offer through costly lapses in the field, where the side’s catching and fielding was below-par. Markram had a huge slice of luck at 35 when a juggling Virat Kohli dropped a simple catch at deep mid-wicket in the 12th over. In the next over, as Miller called for a tight single, Markram had another reprieve when captain Rohit Sharma missed an underarm direct hit at stumps on striker’s end.
Sandwiched between the two chances shelled by India was their batting hero Suryakumar Yadav missing the stumps at striker’s end as Miller called for a quick single. Few overs later, as Markram’s pull fell between two leg-side fielders in the deep, he got to his fifty in 37 balls and shared a 76-run stand off 60 balls with Miller.
“Yes, if you take those catches, it’s a different thing. But of course catches and good fielding wins the matches. So, if we would have taken those chances, those things could have been different.”
“The catches we dropped, or the run-out chances missed, (did) not (result in) the momentum shifted specifically. But we knew if we could have got those changes things could have been different. But I think there wasn’t any particular moment where we can say that things shifted towards their side,” added the right-arm pacer.
But before the fielding, India’s night to forget began from the insipid batting effort. The match was always tipped as a battle between India’s batters and South Africa’s four-man pace attack. Six batters fell while playing the pull shot, eight batters failed to reach double figures as Ngidi & Co made merry on a pitch which suited them well and gave them extra bounce.
Sample this: Suryakumar’s 68 off 40 balls included six fours and three sixes at a strike-rate of 170, while the rest of the Indian batters made a combined 57 runs off 80 balls, hitting three fours and two sixes at a strike-rate of 71.25.
“When it comes to batting, we all know it’s a difficult wicket to bat on. If you look at how the tournament goes on until now, par score has been 130, 140, not par but somewhere near there. We knew that even 140 gave a chance we can get on something like that. You can see the match going to the last over, we knew it would be a close match,” stated the right-arm pacer.
Despite all the things which went wrong, Arshdeep Singh’s brace of scalps with the new ball would give India the confidence that something did go their way in a match where everything that could go wrong, went wrong.
“It was a really good spell, those two wickets got us into the match immediately in the second over of the match. Because of his first two wickets, we got into the match from the start. The way Arshdeep bowled, it’s good from our team’s point of view,” concluded Bhuvneshwar.