“Danda mein tez maat dalna (don’t bowl faster on the stumps),” MS Dhoni barked at Suresh Raina, as picked up by the stump mic. The part time offie didn’t bowl straight alright, but he fired it on the pads of Christiaan Jonker and conceded a four down the leg side. Raina then pitched one short and the debutant South Africa batsman pulled him to the deep backward square leg fence. A 12-run over somewhat ruined Raina’s figures, but in the context of the game, the damage wasn’t massive . With six overs to go in the virtual final of the T20 series at Newlands, the hosts still required 82 runs to win.
Then, Duminy fell prey to a knuckle ball from Shardul Thakur and the Saffers went deeper in the mire. Sixty-four runs required off 24 deliveries and it felt like that a humdinger of a cricket series, over three legs, would end with a whimper. Jasprit Bumrah sent Chris Morris’ middle stump for a walk and South Africa were seemingly at the end of their tether; big-hitting options wise .At 114/5, Farhaan Behardien joined Jonker, and with pride at stake, they refused to go down without a fight. To overcome India’s total of 172/7; South Africa had to pull off the second-highest successful chase at this venue. They pressed the accelerator.
Thakur’s first three overs had accounted for just 17 runs and a wicket. But given the Mumbai seamer’s relative inexperience at this level, he was the soft underbelly of the Indian bowling. Jonker took the attack to young pacer, who wilted under pressure. The first ball of the 18th over went over the long-on boundary and about 10 rows back into the stands. Thakur’s counter-ploy was to bowl wide outside off, but Jonker used his reach and slashed the delivery over backward point for a four. The bowler responded with a dot ball, a slower off-cutter. But he missed his length again next delivery to concede another four. Then, he bowled a knuckle ball, a poor attempt at that, and Jonker rounded off the over with a flat-bat four.
Thirty-five runs off 12 balls are gettable in T20 cricket. But India had Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to fall back on. The former bowled the penultimate over and somehow didn’t find his yorkers. Behardien took a four off him, Jonker hammered a maximum and the equation came down to 19 off six. Then, Dhoni became proactive. Rohit Sharma was standing in for the injured Virat Kohli. But under pressure, dialling D for Dhoni has had been the template. He had a fairly lengthy conversation with Kumar, before instructing the fielders in the deep to check the angles. Kumar started with a slower one, followed by two wide deliveries outside off to give away a four, an extra run and delivery, respectively.
Twelve needed off three and the contest was still alive. Kumar decided to play safe. A yorker and a low full-toss ended Proteas hopes, and Jonker’s scalp in the final ball was the cherry on the cake. The newcomer received a big round of applause for his 24-ball 49, but India had annexed the T20 series 2-1. Bhuvneshwar was smiling, and his teammates wheeling away in celebration.
He was unsually humorous too. “We don’t want to be too greedy and we are happy with these two trophies. Hopefully next time we will win all the three trophies. This tour has been brilliant,” Kumar signed off.
Brief scores: India 172/7 in 20 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 47 off 40, Suresh Raina 43 off 27; Junior Dala 3/35) beat South Africa 165/6 in 20 overs (JP Duminy 55 off 41, C Jonker 49 off 24; B Kumar2/24) by seven runs.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines