A thrilling win to end the tour

Whenever the story of the South African tour will be narrated, one thing that will always be mentioned will be the energy and aggression with which the Men in Blue played across the three formats of the game. A loss in the test series only provided Team India the momentum to march ahead and win the remaining two white ball series. India were dominant in the ODI series, but it was not the case with the T20I series. The hosts, determined to bounce back from the disappointment in the ODIs, looked more competitive and eager to taste victory. Their eagerness was all evident in the final T20I held at the Newlands Cricket Ground, Cape Town, when they almost chased the target set by India, which looked impossible until the 17th over of the second innings. The last T20I was probably the most crucial match of the entire tour for India, as winning two out of three series in South Africa would mean a successful tour. The absence of Virat Kohli was certainly a setback for the batting line-up, given how imperious he had been throughout the tour. Rohit Sharma was given the responsibility to lead the side in his absence. Jasprit Bumrah was back in the squad while Axar Patel found a place to play his first game in South Africa. Christaan Jonker, another debutant to feature from the Proteas side, almost made it to the headlines for the next day. It was a mighty effort from both the sides, but Team India managed to emerge victorious.

The Proteas won the toss yet again and chose to field. The Indian innings started explosively as Rohit Sharma punished Morris’ sloppy over. However, CJ Dala, who debuted in this T20I series, got Rohit’s pads before the wicket and the captain walked out with 11 runs to his name. A decision review could have been an interesting one, but Rohit didn’t go for it and the on-field umpire’s decision stood. Shikhar Dhawan was struggling to find a boundary for a long time. On the other hand, Suresh Raina started off his innings with a six on his first ball. He was pacing up the innings while Dhawan took his time. The former’s innings proved to be the most crucial as he paced his innings to 43 runs in just 27 deliveries. The introduction of spinners by Duminy made it difficult for the batsmen to score freely. Both Dhawan and Raina were trying hard to time the ball, but it just wasn’t happening for them. On Shamsi’s flighted delivery, Raina tried to place and time the ball as he hoisted it in the air but couldn’t get much power behind it and Behardien caught him at the boundary line. Manish Pandey tried to carry his momentum from the previous match, but the in-form pacer, Dala, was brought back in the 14th over and he did the job of sending Pandey back in the stands as he gave an easy catch at mid-wicket to Miller. Dhawan survived twice in the innings as he was dropped both times by Shamsi. His struggle to find a boundary went on for 29 deliveries, but eventually he got the breakthrough, albeit it was short-lived. Although, he did score crucial 47 runs off 40 deliveries, he fell short of the crease when he took a chance to take a second run and Dala’s powerful direct hit was enough to conclude his contribution with the bat. The Indian innings was in the death overs but still, they were finding it hard to find boundaries. However, with Dhoni and Pandya at the crease, they were converting ones into twos, which ultimately proved extremely crucial in setting up a competitive target. Dala’s amazing spell included the third wicket of Dhoni. His figures of 3 for 35 were sufficient to restrict Indian batsmen. Morris was the most expensive South African bowler, but he managed to get the wickets of Pandya and Karthik in his last over. The total was 172 for 7, and under any circumstances, they had to defend it.

The Proteas began with caution as they were struggling to free their hands against the tight line and length bowled by Bhuvaneshwar, Bumrah and Thakur. The man-in-form, RR Hendricks went out cheaply for 13 runs as he tried to loft Bhuvaneshwar’s delivery but couldn’t read his knuckle ball and Dhawan caught him comfortably. At the end of the powerplay, South Africa were just 25/1. Duminy and Miller slowly tried to build a stable partnership, but along with their growing partnership, the required run-rate was rising too. The Indian bowlers were mounting pressure on them as they were hesitating to go for the big ones. Miller took 23 balls to complete his 24 runs before he got out on Raina’s half-tracker. Just like the second T20I, Duminy was fighting at the other end. The Proteas needed to break the shackles and go for the target, as the asking rate was increasing rapidly. Duminy hit three sixes in a bid to salvage the game for the hosts. However, he couldn’t take his innings till the end. Thakur’s knuckle ball was misread by him and a shot off the top-edge landed safely in Rohit’s hands. The South African innings was probably considered finished as Morris was clean bowled in the next over itself by Jasprit Bumrah. South Africa were 114 for 5 after 16.3 overs and everybody thought that India will see it through and seal the win. However, the debutant, C Jonker, has other things on his mind. He scored 18 runs off Thakur’s last over, giving the South Africans a glimmer of hope. They needed 35 to win from the final two overs. Jonker and Behardien extracted 16 runs from Bumrah’s in the 19th over, leaving 19 runs to score from the last. Bhuvaneshwar’s one over was saved for the last, and the nail-biting encounter ended with the Jonker’s wicket. His 49 runs off just 25 deliveries included 5 fours and 2 sixes and together with Behardien, they took their score to 165 for 5, but couldn’t creep across the finish line. Perhaps, the top order batsmen needed to pace-up their innings a bit more as the task at the end was too much to ask for. Nevertheless, Jonker showcased what he is capable of, which was a positive thing for the home side.

The best was saved for the last as Team India scripted a famous victory away from home soil. South Africa weren’t as bad as in the ODI series and they definitely had a few positives to take away. The players like Klaasen, Dala and Jonker made the best of the opportunities that were given to them. Team India’s middle order was thoroughly tested in the T20I series and they didn’t disappoint either. Hardik Pandya’s contribution with the ball was instrumental in piling up pressure on the South African batsmen. Raina made sure he won’t go back without leaving a mark, and he was awarded the man of the match, while Bhuvaneshwar Kumar was adjudged as the man of the series. This was the tour which will go into the history books. The 4-1 ODI series win and the 2-1 T20I series win would have sounded unrealistic before the tour commenced, but Team India made it possible and it is their time to enjoy the victory before they head to play the tri-series with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

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