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Thursday, May 26, 2022

No respite after Test series defeat as KL Rahul’s ODI captaincy debut ends in 31-run loss

Shikhar Dhawan-Virat Kohli partnership of 92 had raised hopes of a win; Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen make centuries.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty |
Updated: January 20, 2022 3:42:29 pm
South Africa celebrates the taking of the wicket of Shreyas Iyer during the first ODI match between South Africa and India in Paarl, South Africa, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)

Just when it felt like Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli were laying the foundation for a win at Paarl, the former was gone. Close on Dhawan’s heels, Kohli returned to the pavilion, looking in total control until he played an uncharacteristic sweep shot. As it turned out, chasing 297 for victory, a 92-run second wicket partnership was India’s only piece of resistance. From 138/2, they quickly slumped to 188/6.

India lost the first ODI by 31 runs.

Twice the tourists surrendered the initiative in this game. Allowing South Africa to make a spectacular recovery, through twin tons of Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen, was the first. A sub-300 total was still pretty gettable on a sluggish Boland Park pitch. Failure to build on the partnership between Dhawan and Kohli hit India even harder.

Wrong team selection and ordinary captaincy from KL Rahul contributed to this defeat as well, but we would come to that later.

The day belonged to Van der Dussen in particular, for he swept the wind out of India’s sails. At 68/3, batting first, the hosts were in trouble. On a dry surface, the ball was turning a bit. Bounce was low and Ravichandran Ashwin had just cleaned up Quinton de Kock by making one skid off the turf. Aiden Markram’s run-out, courtesy a direct hit from Venkatesh Iyer, came in quick succession.

Yuzvendra Chahal at the other end was getting the drift and making the ball turn. Van der Dussen’s response was a reverse sweep for a four. The batsman then brought out a conventional sweep to get another four in Chahal’s next over. The sweep was out again and a four followed by a couple ensued. As the leg-spinner was neutered, India lacked a Plan B.

Bavuma, too, grew in confidence and attacked Chahal. Together the Saffers duo started to impose themselves on Indian bowling. In sweltering heat, the bowlers gradually ran out of steam. Bavuma eventually got out for 110 off 143 balls in the 49th over. Van der Dussen remained unbeaten on 129 off 96 deliveries, including nine fours and four sixes. Together they added 204 runs for the fourth wicket, a partnership where Van der Dussen was the enforcer and Bavuma the anchor. The Proteas posted 296/4.

India ended up scoring 265/8.

Back in 2013, Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers had added 171 runs for the fourth wicket against India in an ODI at Centurion. Van der Dussen and Bavuma broke the record, both scoring their second ODI centuries, with the former getting to his career-best.

Van de Dussen thrived on his proactive approach.

Iyer unused as bowler

Why didn’t Rahul use Iyer at all as a bowler was anybody’s guess.

At the pre-match press conference, India’s stand-in skipper had spoken about how a seaming all-rounder could be an asset to the team, offering words of praise for the newcomer. Iyer was handed his ODI debut, ostensibly to have an extra bowling option, while Suryakumar Yadav warmed the bench. The debutant, though, was left unused despite Shardul Thakur leaking runs, including a 17-run over. Rahul chose to stick to his five specialist bowlers, only Jasprit Bumrah making an impact.

The positive takeaway for India from this game was Dhawan’s batting. He returned to the international fold after a six-month gap and middled the ball from the outset. His handling of Marco Jansen, the left-arm quick who created a lot of problems for India in the Test series, was very impressive. After scoring 79 off 84 balls, Dhawan was dismissed by Keshav Maharaj, misjudging the length and the turn.

Kohli was batting like a king. A wristy flick through mid-wicket for a four to a Lungi Ngidi delivery that landed pretty wide outside the off stump, was easily the shot of the match. The next ball, almost identical, was driven to sweeper cover. Kohli made 51 off 63 deliveries, but yet again, he failed to convert. An attempted sweep against Tabraiz Shamsi was a little uncharacteristic. The ball hardly arrived and hit the toe-end of the bat.

Across formats, India have now lost three games on the spin in a tour where they went as overwhelming favourites. Yet again, India’s middle-order batting left much to be desired. Catching, wasn’t up to scratch either. Also, at a venue that offered a home feel, Indian spinners were outbowled by their South African counterparts. While Ashwin and Chahal gave away 106 runs between them for a wicket; Shamsi, Maharaj and part-timer Markram – he opened the bowling – accounted for four scalps, conceding 124 runs.

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