India’s wrist-spin duo Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav humbled South Africa yet again as India went 3-0 up in the six-match series with a thumping 124-run win after Virat Kohli’s masterful 160*.
After Hashim Amla fell early for 1 – lbw to Jasprit Bumrah – South Africa’s chase had only one really meaningful partnership, between stand-in skipper Aiden Markram (32) and No.3 JP Duminy (51). Markram became the first of Kuldeep’s four victims, stumped by MS Dhoni, and after a brief stay by Heinrich Klaasen, the nail went in South Africa’s coffin when Duminy was lbw to Chahal.
From then on it was just a case of which bowlers would hoover up the wickets, with those compelling spinners Chahal (4/46) and Kuldeep (4/23) the obvious stand-outs.
South Africa’s seemingly total inability to cope with the Indian attack on a pitch offering some turn was in stark contrast to the brilliance on display from the tourists’ captain. To follow on from his 112 in Durban and 46* in Centurion, Kohli stroked his way to 160 from 159 balls in utterly serene fashion.
Coming to the crease at 0/1 after Rohit Sharma was caught behind off Kagiso Rabada in the first over, Kohli looked unflustered to put on a match-defining 140-run partnership with Shikhar Dhawan (76).
Though he opened his shoulders and cleared the ropes twice late on, it was Kohli's positive and athletic running between the wickets and masterful rotation of strike that stood out in what was his 34th ODI century. Repeatedly picking gaps and managing to return for a second run more often than not, he showed exactly why he stands alone as a batsman in this format at the moment.
It could have been very different. Kohli was on 0 when Kagiso Rabada struck him on the pad and was given out by Ian Gould. After a brief consultation with Dhawan, presumably about the possibility of the ball missing leg, Kohli was eventually handed a reprieve based on the hint of an inside edge on RTS.
Opener Dhawan played wonderfully for his 76 off 63 balls, but India began to wobble when he, Ajinkya Rahane (11) and Hardik Pandya (14) each threw their wickets away, Dhawan smacking Duminy to mid-wicket, Rahane playing a silly shot to sky the same bowler to Andile Phehlukwayo and Pandya edging Chris Morris behind to leave India 188/4 off 32.5 overs. An out-of-sorts MS Dhoni was caught at long-on from his first aggressive shot for a 22-ball 10.
The fact that Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the third-highest scorer with 16 shows just how crucial Dhawan – and particularly Kohli – were to the Indian cause. No matter how bamboozled South Africa appear to be in the face of India’s wrist-spin assault, even those two need something to bowl at. And the majestic Kohli game them many more than they needed.
The fourth ODI takes place on Saturday in Johannesburg.