India puts runs on the board, but visiting side proves too strong in Dharamsala T20I
Rohit Sharma scored a sensational 66-ball 106 on Friday (October 2) to guide India to a mammoth 199 for 5 from 20 overs, only to be undone — not in number of runs or style but in effect — by a brilliant knock from JP Duminy.
Duminy smashed seven sixes and a four in an unbeaten 34-ball 68 to guide South Africa to a seven-wicket win in the opening Twenty20 International at the HPCA Cricket Stadium in Dharamsala.
The only time India looked troubled was at the start of its innings. Sprinting to steal a single after the ball had ricocheted off him, Rohit was nearly half-way down when he realised that Shikhar Dhawan had called off the run. He turned around just in the nick of time, but Dhawan wasn’t as lucky when he was confronted by a run out situation a few overs later.
Responding to a hasty call from Rohit, Dhawan rushed to the wicketkeeper’s end to try and cover ground in the time it would take Marchant de Lange to recover from a misfield. Unfortunately, his bat made it to the line and not an inch more when AB de Villiers whipped off the bails.
But all was not lost just yet as Rohit and Virat Kohli gave them 138 reasons to put behind the early loss.
It started with Rohit and his short-arm jab off de Lange over the long-leg fence. From there, Rohit was a different batsman. Batting like he had an extra second to line up the delivery, Rohit got into stunning positions and dismissed every bowler.
South Africa couldn't be blamed too much as it had to deal with the dew, the insects and, most importantly, Rohit in his element. Bowlers were rotated and fields were changed, but nothing stopped Rohit from racing to his maiden T20I century from 62 deliveries. And that it came off a breathtaking straight six off de Lange made it all the more entertaining for the audience.
However, South Africa was given a breather by Kyle Abbott when the seamer got rid of Virat Kohli (43) and Rohit in the same over. There on, Ambati Rayudu ran himself out for a duck off his first ball but Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni gave the crowd more to applaud during their short stints.
India was aware of how big a hurdle it had placed in front of South Africa, but it was also aware of de Villiers. As expected, its worst nightmare began to unfold even as Dhoni, the Indian skipper, worked tirelessly to quell de Villiers and Hashim Amla. In the first six overs, South Africa had raced to 67. The train was threatening to runaway, but Dhoni brought in Axar Patel and R Ashwin to step on the brakes. The spinners created pressure but a brilliant throw from Mohit Sharma, positioned at long leg, is what broke the opening stand.
At the other end, Ashwin undid de Villiers by reducing pace and drawing the batsman forward. Sighting some flight, de Villiers charged down but couldn’t get to the pitch. The ball spun sharply, deflected off his hip and crashed into the leg stump to signal a minor victory for India. S Arvind, the debutant, bagged the wicket of Faf du Plessis, the South Africa skipper, to mark his maiden international wicket and also peg back the South Africa chase.
That was until Duminy ran away with the game. After smashing his first six off Axar in the 13th over, Duminy stuck to rotating strike with Farhaan Behardien (32 not out). It wasn’t until Axar was brought back into attack did he switch roles. By blasting the left-arm spinner for three successive sixes in the 16th over, Duminy had brought the equation down to 43 to win from 23 balls. When he wasn’t striking a six each over, he was converting singles to twos to bring a win within reach, but he still needed to hold his nerve in the last over with ten runs to win.
Arvind bowled two very good deliveries and conceded just three, but Duminy smashed a six over wide long-on to level the scores before pinching a single to get over the line and rain down on Rohit’s parade.To see the full scorecard, please click here.