India beat South Africa by 73 runs in the fifth ODI of the six-match series to take an unassailable 4-1 lead. Rohit Sharma was the architect of India’s 274 run score while batting first before the wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav once again blitzed past the lower middle order to seal the win. This is India’s first bilateral series win in South Africa – across formats – and skipper Virat Kohli was more than pleased with the effort of the team.
“Very pleased. Another convincing win for us and I thought the guys really got stuck in, with the bat, with the ball and on the field as well. It was a complete performance from us which was important to put together after the last game. Only one team had the pressure of losing the series right from the start and that was South Africa. We knew that a few mistakes and we’d be right back in the game. Right from the third Test in Johannesburg, it has been a great time for us. We’ve been playing some really good cricket and it has been a collective effort from the team-mates, the support staff, and everybody; feels wonderful to be 4-1 up,” he told Shaun Pollock in the post-match presentation.
Even as India scored 274, helped by Rohit’s 115 from 126 balls, the middle order continued to falter which remains a concern for the Indian team as the focus remains on the 2019 World Cup. For a second consecutive game, India didn’t get the desired finish with just 55 runs from the last 10 overs. “When three guys at the top are playing well and scoring consistently, every now and then you get an opportunity where you might not click, and when this series is wrapped up we’ll look to think about what we can do to improve and strengthen as we move forward,” said Kohli.
Asked if India would make any changes in the dead rubber at Centurion, Kohli remained uncertain at the time. “We want to win 5-1 for sure, that doesn’t change, but there’ll be a chance for others to step in as well. The first priority is to win and we’ll do anything to do that again,” he stated.
At the other end, South Africa’s stand-in skipper Aiden Markram conceded India were superior than the hosts and deserved the win. “Credit to the Indians, they played very well today. Still happy with what we had to chase out there today. Our batting wasn’t upto scratch, and it is hard to keep up the momentum when you lose wickets in clumps. These are some quality Indian players in good form so credit to them, they nailed the execution of their plans,” said Markram who is standing in for the injured Faf du Plessis.
“They’ve bowled well, they took wickets and the more we play them the better we’ll get. So all credit to them (the Indian spinners), and we’ll look to improve our skills against quality wrist spin,” he added.
Series lost, Markram maintained South Africa have pride to play for and they would go for it all in the sixth ODI. “Lot of pride to play for in the dead-rubber and we will look to bounce back and end the ODI series on a positive note at Centurion. We’ll try to work on putting that perfect game together in the next one,” he concluded.
Long time coming: Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma had only scored 126 runs in South Africa throughout his career. On Tuesday, he extended the run count with a well-played century and admitted that despite the pressure, he stuck to his plans and it finally paid off.
“It was a long time coming (smiles). I had a good time in the middle; as the game went on the wicket got slower and slower and it wasn’t easy. Had fun in the middle and it is always a good feeling when you score a hundred and your team wins the match. We stuck to our plans and am glad it came off,” said Rohit after the win.
“You’ve got to keep yourself mentally fit. South Africa is a good place to play cricket and I try to keep myself in the right frame of mind and it paid off. I knew I didn’t have to change a lot and the runs would come. I kept doing the same things off the field, I kept hitting the ball well and the confidence was there that I would score,” he added.
Rohit’s celebrations of his 17th ODI century were subdued and the vice-captain stated that it was due to the fact that there was plenty to do for him. “We were in a spot of bother when I got to my century and that’s why the celebrations were low key. What was important for me was to bat long and get the team to a good score and am glad we came out hard and defended it,” he concluded.