A dominant performance by the No.1 ranked ODI team in the world saw India take a 2-0 lead in the six-match series and left South Africa facing tough questions after a defeat as one-sided as any they can have suffered since readmission.
A nine-wicket win with the best part of 30 overs to spare were the bare facts from Centurion, after South Africa’s batsmen singularly failed to make good use of a track that should have been tailor-made for run-scoring. India’s spinners were the main beneficiaries, with Yuzvendra Chahal (5/22) picking up his maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs and his spin twin Kuldeep Yadav (3/20) also recording a personal-best in the format. But this was a collective bowling effort, to which South Africa simply had no answers.
India’s attack is now as versatile, potent and complete as any in world cricket, with pace up-top in the form of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, thrusting support from Hardik Pandya and a pair of young wrist spinners, one right-arm, the other left, offering mystery and control in the middle overs.
Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla actually weathered the early pressure exerted by the pacemen to get to 39/0 before Amla, having looked relatively assured, got in a tangle against Kumar and edged behind. He reviewed the decision immediately but replays confirmed the edge, and his departure precipitated a run of three quick wickets, all to the spinners, and all as a result of loose shots from the top order.
De Kock’s struggles continued. He was hit on the gloves twice in Bumrah’s first over - there are concerns that he may have further damaged an already bruised left hand - and thereafter he was scratchy, before top-edging a short delivery from Chahal to deep mid-wicket. After his sensational 178 from 113 balls on this ground against Australia in 2016, this was another inauspicious innings from South Africa’s off-colour golden boy.
The stand-in captain Aiden Markram, taking the armband in place of the injured Faf du Plessis, was next to go, also going airborne into the leg-side, and when David Miller edged a beautifully flighted delivery from Kuldeep to first slip, the innings had already subsided inside the first 15 overs.
A mini-recovery from JP Duminy and the debutant Khaya Zondo was then cut short when Zondo top-edged a sweep shot against Chahal, and when Duminy followed two overs later, the final, ignominious collapse was in full swing. Six wickets would fall in six overs to bring about the end of South Africa’s innings, the eighth lowest score in their ODI history, and the lowest ever recorded on this ground.
The chase was never really a chase at all, so much as a stroll in the mid-afternoon sunshine. Rohit Sharma launched More Morkel for a towering hooked six in the first over of the innings, before succumbing to Kagiso Rabada for a breezy 15. The dismissal left the stage for Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli to ease India to their victory target, with Dhawan bringing up his fifty, the 35th time in 98 ODIs he’s passed the mark.
The only real talking point emerged with India needing just two runs to win, when the umpires, having extended play as long as possible within the rules, called lunch. The players returned 40 minutes later to complete the match. It’s one that the hosts will want to forget in a hurry, but may not be afforded such a luxury.
The next match begins on Wednesday at Cape Town. There will be much soul-searching in the home team’s dressing room between now and then.