Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen hit centuries to set up a 31-run win for South Africa in the first one-day international against India at Boland Park in Paarl on Wednesday.
South Africa made 296 for four after winning the toss and batting on a slow pitch. India were on target for the first half of their reply but lost wickets in clusters and finished on 265 for eight.
South African captain Bavuma made 110 off 143 balls but admitted that he struggled to time the ball consistently. He settled for playing a supporting role to a dazzling Van der Dussen, who hit a career-best 129 not out off 96 deliveries and was named man of the match.
“It seemed like he was batting on a different wicket,” said Bavuma. “The energy and intensity he brought really gave our innings impetus. My focus was to try and partner him for as much as I can.”
Van der Dussen said his confidence had been boosted by being involved in two high-pressure run chases in the Test series won by South Africa last week.
Van der Dussen and Bavuma finished off the Test series with an unbeaten stand of 57 last Friday and carried that form through to the one-day game, putting on 204 for the fourth wicket off 190 balls.
The partnership came after South Africa struggled to 68 for three in the 18th over.
“We started off really well but we couldn’t get wickets in the middle (of the innings), which is quite a problem,” said stand-in Indian captain KL Rahul.
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But the match seemed to be swinging towards India during a free-scoring second-wicket partnership of 92 between Shikhar Dhawan (79) and Virat Kholi (51).
The Indian pair took the total to 138 for one in the 26th over –- well ahead of the South African total at the equivalent stage in their innings.
“We were on course to chase it but the middle order didn’t get going,” said Rahul. “It was a good wicket to bat on but the South Africans bowled well.”
Fortunes changed dramatically when the left-handed Dhawan was bowled by a ball from left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj which spun back sharply.
Kohli fell tamely in the next over when an attempted sweep against left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi looped gently to Bavuma at midwicket.
Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer added 29 for the fourth wicket but they too fell in successive overs, Pant to a spectacular stumping by Quinton de Kock off a leg-side wide by Andile Phehlukwayo.
A hard-hitting 50 not out by Shardul Thakur gave the Indian total some respectability as he and Jasprit Bumrah (14 not out) shared an unbeaten ninth-wicket partnership of 51.
The match is not part of the World Cup Super League, which is a qualifying tournament for the 2023 Cricket World Cup, but Rahul said the series was important.
“We have the World Cup in mind and we want to get our best team on the pitch,” said Rahul.