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India’s 82-run win takes series to pulsating finale

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India beat South Africa by 82 runs at the Saurashtra Cricket Stadium in Rajkot to draw the five-match T20I series level at 2-2.

Dinesh Karthik’s impressive half-century (55 runs off 27 balls) got India to a potential match-winning score of 169/6, while Avesh Khan tormented the Proteas with his spell of 4/18.

For the fourth consecutive time in the T20I series, South Africa captain Temba Bavuma opted to bowl first upon winning the toss.

While Rishabh Pant opted for an unchanged team once again, the Proteas brought in Quinton de Kock, Marco Jansen and Lungi Ngidi as replacements for Rezza Hendricks, Wayne Parnell and Kagiso Rabada.

After scoring eight runs in the opening over, India would lose wickets in the second and third overs. The returning Lungi Ngidi bowled a hard length delivery to Ruturaj Gaikwad who pokes it towards de Kock for the former’s first T20I scalp since 2021.

Debutant Marco Jansen opened his wicket account for South Africa with the dismissal of Shreyas Iyer. The left-hander reviewed for LBW after the umpire originally declared not out.

The third umpire found his appeal valid as the ball pitched in-line and hit the stumps, meaning Iyer would walk back after scoring a boundary off the previous ball.

After ending the powerplay phase at 40/2, India would lose the in-form Ishan Kishan on the very next ball. Anrich Nortje’s short ball drove Kishan to attempt a guided shot towards third man, but it took a top edge and went straight towards Quinton de Kock. The opener departed for 27 runs off 26 balls

Pant’s boundary shot towards deep backward point propelled India past the 50-run mark in 7.4 overs, but with just four runs in the next two overs, the hosts would reach the half-way stage into the first innings with a score of 56/3.

Hardik Pandya tried to give India a push with the bat as he contributed 14 of the 16 runs scored in the 12th over. He smashed two sixes in succession off Tabraiz Shamsi to get the run rate close to 7.00 runs per over.

The promising 41-run stand for the fourth wicket would come to an end as Rishabh Pant departed for 17. Keshav Maharaj bowled wide outside the off-stump and Pant tried to slash it, however, it went straight towards Dwaine Pretorius at the short third man position.

India breached the 100-run mark in 15.1 overs, with Dinesh Karthik taking charge of the scoring for the Men in Blue.

Karthik, batting alongside Hardik Pandya until he lost his wicket in the 19th over, smashed eight of his nine boundaries in the death overs and added two sixes along the way. After reaching his maiden T20I half-century and getting India past 150 runs, the middle-order batter was dismissed for 55 by Dwaine Pretorius in the final over.

India ended their first innings with a score of 169/6, after scoring 73 runs in the last five overs.

The Proteas’ run chase of 170 began with both their opening batters walking to the pavilion before the end of the powerplay phase. While Temba Bavuma retired hurt with an elbow injury at the start of the fourth over, Quinton de Kock was run out by bowler Harshal Patel after a horrid mix-up with non-striker Dwaine Pretorius.

Pretorius departed in the final over of the powerplay phase as his attempt to slog Avesh Khan’s delivery towards leg side ended up taking an edge and sailing to wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant. The Proteas’ score at the end of the first six overs was 35/2, five less than India’s tally at this stage in the first innings.

South Africa lost their third wicket in the ninth over. Yuzvendra Chahal’s non-turning delivery went underneath Heinrich Klaasen’s bat and hit the front pad, forcing the bowler to get a wicket by LBW. Klaasen’s review appeal went against him as it was a dead plumb.

Harshal Patel bagged the prized wicket of David Miller as his hard length delivery knocked over the off stump. Miller, a potential match-winner for the Proteas, could only manage nine runs in seven deliveries.

The Proteas continued to struggle against the Indian bowlers as they lost Rassie van der Dussen, Marco Jansen and Keshav Maharaj in the 14th over. While Avesh Khan combined with fielder Ruturaj Gaikwad for two dismissals, Maharaj was dismissed for a duck with Shreyas Iyer taking the catch.

Yuzvendra Chahal ended his spell with his second wicket of the night as Anrich Nortje’s one-knee sweep shot attempt went towards point fielder Ishan Kishan, who completed a simple catch.

The game was brought to a close in 16.5 overs, after Lungi Ngidi hit a miscued shot towards long-on where Ruturaj Gaikwad completed his third match of the night. Proteas finished the game at 87 all out, their lowest score in T20Is.

Trailing 0-2 in the five-match series and losing the toss in each of the four ties so far, India have made a resounding comeback and will look to clinch the series in the fifth T20I at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium.