At the break, India was left not merely introspecting about its bowling, but reaching for calculators as a thunderstorm drenched the ground. India’s best chance was for a 20-over chase, in which its target would have been 167. However, as the rain grew heavier, and the ground wetter, there was no chance for the players to take the field, and the match was abandoned shortly after 8pm local time. For the record, South Africa took the series 2-0.
After a steady drizzle that lasted more than 12 hours on Tuesday threatened to further curtail an already truncated series, the morning of the final ODI dawned bright and sunny. This was proper African summer weather, and India would have dearly loved the chance to bat first on a surface that had a bit of bounce in it, but was the kind that strokemakers would enjoy batting on once they were set.
But, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was asked to field, with South Africa having rested Jacques Kallis and the deadly duo of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma were steady first up, but it was the introduction of Mohammad Shami that spiced up proceedings. Hitting exactly the right length, at bustling pace, Shami extracted sufficient movement off the pitch, just often enough to keep the batsmen honest.
Shami was fortunate to get the breakthrough, Hashim Amla knocking a full toss down Yuvraj Singh’s throat at square leg. Henry Davids, who came into the XI in place of Kallis, caught a bit of extra bounce from Ishant and edged to Suresh Raina at slip. Three balls later Raina was in business again, this time tumbling forward to take a sharp catch off JP Duminy.
After humungous opening stands in the first two ODIs, South Africa was in its first spot of bother in the series, at 28 for 3. One person who was not troubled, however, was de Kock. If the earlier matches were an opportunity to show how he could dominate an attack that was down, the Centurion match gave him a chance to show how he would build an innings under pressure.
India’s players would have been well aware that de Kock is yet to make a single ODI half-century to go with his three hundreds, but that did not stop them from letting him off twice on his way to the mini milestone. When de Kock was on 37, he was dropped by Ajinkya Rahane, temporarily on the field for Virat Kohli, and on 43, Yuvraj Singh put down an offering off the bowling of R Ashwin.
If you give a player of de Kock’s ability multiple chances, he is going to make you pay. De Villiers, in the mood for a long stint at the crease, took all the pressure off de Kock, timing the ball sweetly through the off side.
De Kock tried no fancy strokes, and when he dabbed one from Shami just behind square to go from 99 to 100, the crowd went wild. De Kock became only the third South Africa cricketer, after de Villiers and Herschelle Gibbs, and fifth player overall, to score three hundreds on the trot. His run tally after 16 matches was also the best by any South Africa cricketer, going past Graeme Smith, the man whose place de Kock had taken. De Kock was also the fastest batsman to four ODI hundreds, getting there in 16 ODIs, bettering Dennis Amiss’s mark of 18 matches.
That de Kock was bowled by Ishant on 101 did little to dent South Africa, for the 171-run fourth-wicket stand had given the home side the perfect launch pad. De Villiers stepped on the gas as soon as the batting powerplay was taken, and when he was finally dismissed, for a 101-ball 109, he had hit six fours and five sixes. When Ishant sent Ryan McLaren packing, the crowd gave him a warm ovation, for he had finished a spell that yielded 4 for 40, and in the process brought up his 100th ODI wicket.
David Miller, coming in at No. 6, swung the long handle without fear or hesitancy and applied the perfect finishing touches to South Africa’s innings. Miller cracked a 32-ball 50, studded with breezy hits over the ropes as South Africa ended on 301 for 8.