Team India wicketkeeper-batter Sanju Samson, whose late onslaught almost took India to win, admitted that he fell short by two shots as they lost the match by nine runs in the rain-truncated first ODI of the three-match series in Lucknow on Thursday.
“At the end of the game, I fell short by two shots,” Sanju Samson told reporters.
Sanju, who made 86 not out off 63 balls, said spending time in the middle helped him to take the game deep.
“I like spending time on the wicket. And once you are wearing the Indian jersey, it becomes more special. We play to win but we missed by two shots. Overall, I am happy with my contribution,” he said.
Chasing 250 for victory in the 40-overs-a-side contest, India needed 30 runs from the final over from left-arm spinner Tabraiz Shamsi. Samson went on to smash three fours and a six, but India could only muster 20 runs.
“Plan was to target on Tabraiz Shamsi, who was not bowling well. I knew that he will bowl one over in the last. I was backing myself to get 24 runs in the final over. I was confident of hitting four sixes in the last over,” he said.
Chasing a stiff target, India endured a disastrous start to their chase, losing both Shubman Gill (3) and skipper Shikhar Dhawan (4) cheaply to be reduced to 8 for two inside six overs.
Ishan Kishan and debutant Ruturaj Gaikwad then tried to stabilise the innings with a 48-run partnership for the third wicket before the latter was stumped by Quinton de Kock off the bowling of Tabraiz Shamsi as India slumped to 48 for 3 in 16.4 overs.
“It was difficult to score with the new ball. If you see South Africa’s innings, the pitch eased down after the 15-20 over, and then Miller and Klassen batted really well. Even for us, including me, Iyer and Shardul, we batted well because the pitch got better after 20 overs. Batting conditions were not easy,” said Sanju.
Opting to bowl, India had reduced South Africa to 110 for 4 in 22.4 overs but David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen powered the visitors to 249 for 4. The Indian bowlers conceded 54 runs in the last five overs.
Sanju defended India’s bowlers and said that nowadays, scoring fifty runs in the last five overs is not a difficult task and that too when someone like David Miller is batting.
“We have some areas to improve, but we also look at the batter we’re bowling at. If you are bowling against someone like David Miller, who is the best finisher in the world at the moment, and it is a daunting task,” he said.
“In today’s cricket, scoring 50 runs in the five overs is not difficult,” he added.
When being asked about the amount of support he has been receiving from the fans, the 27-year-old says he considers himself ‘fortunate.’
“Very fortunate. There are so many superstars in Indian cricket, and you are loved by the fans as well. It is a good motivation. It also increases the expectation, and my preparation has also gone a notch up,” he said.
“Abhi practice session 2 ghante se chaar ghante ho gaya hai (I have doubled by practice session from two hours to four),” he said.
India and South Africa will now clash in the second ODI in Ranchi on Sunday.