Brilliant opening spells from Arshdeep Singh (3/32) and Deepak Chahar (2/24) established the foundation of India’s eight-wicket win over South Africa on a spicy Thiruvananthapuram pitch as the home side went 1-0 up in the three-match series on Wednesday, September 28. India’s new-ball operators had the tourists on the mat at 9/5 halfway through the third over, before Keshav Maharaj’s valiant fightback helped them post a respectable 106/8. Despite losing the key wickets of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli cheaply, Suryakumar Yadav and KL Rahul ticked off the chase in the 17th over with their contrasting half-centuries.
As the avid cricket fans who followed the live cricket score would concur, the writing was written on the wall for South Africa in the first 15 balls itself. Any bowling concerns due to India’s frontline pacers being not featuring in the match were laid to rest by an exhibition of swing bowling by Arshdeep and Chahar upfront. Sure it was a seamer-friendly track, but most in South Africa’s top-order bit the dust due to lack of foot movement. Chahar set up Temba Bavuma with a series of outswingers before jagging one back in sharply to flummox the South African captain. Arshdeep ran riot with three strikes in his opening over – Quinton de Kock chopped on, Rilee Rossouw edged behind and David Miller was clean bowled. Tristan Stubbs was the third to bag the golden duck in a row as Chahar picked his second scalp in as many overs.
At 9 for 5, South Africa were in desperate need of runs. Adien Markram (25 off 24) and Wayne Parnell’s (24 off 37) brief mitigations took them to 30/5 at the end of powerplay but the momentum kick came later from Keshav Maharaj, who smacked two sixes and five boundaries in his 35-ball cameo of 41 that was also the top-scoring effort for the tourists. He came on when Harshal Patel had accounted for South Africa’s last recognised batter in Markram, took his time settling in and then slowly began to flex his muscles. Batting on 5 off 16 at one point, Maharaj broke free with an authoritative pull over cow-corner and kept at least a boundary coming every over from there on. It was in the penultimate over that he took the attack to India’s most successful bowler on the night – a reverse-lap and a sweetly-timed drive for two boundaries and an upper cut over third man for six sandwiched in between. The expensive 17-run over from Arshdeep saw the tourists scraping their way into triple digits.
It was now time for the Indian openers to face the music. Kagiso Rabada, who began with a maiden, sent Rohit Sharma packing for a duck with an unplayable delivery – full, outside off in that zone of uncertainty and forcing the Indian captain forward before decking away. The outside edge was gobbled up by de Kock. At the other end, Rahul continued to bide his time with India finishing their powerplay on 17/1 – their lowest in the format. Virat Kohli saw an opportunity to slash, but could only feather an edge to the ‘keeper.
They sung from different sheets but Suryakumar and Rahul ensured there were no more hiccups after the early wobble. The former got going with consecutive off Nortje’s over while Rahul got into his element with a whippy flick over long-on for six. India went past fifty in the first ball of the 11th over before the third-wicket duo put the spinners to the sword. Suryakumar hit back-to-back fours to bring up India’s 100. And while he quietly reached his second successive half-century with a single, Rahul raised his with a well-connected slog sweep that sealed the deal.