Sanju Samson took it late and made a fist out of a difficult run-chase but India fell just short in the opening One Day International in Lucknow of the three-match series against South Africa on Thursday.

After a sharp counterattack by Shreyas Iyer, Samson made an unbeaten 86 but India lost by nine runs against Proteas, chasing a 250-run target in a rain-hit 40-overs-a-side match. Apart from Samson, Iyer (50) and Shardul Thakur (33) played their parts in making the chase interesting on a tough pitch.

And the wicketkeeper-batter said it was a matter of two shots and that will try to make up for it next time around.

“I love spending time at the wicket, especially in India colours. But we play to win the match and I fell short by just two shots. I will try to make up for that in the next match but I am happy with my contribution,” Samson said in the post-match press conference.

“South Africa bowlers were bowling really well but Shamsi was going a little expensive so we thought we can target him. I knew he had one over left so if we needed 24 runs, I was confident that I could hit four sixes. So I was taking it deep. That was our plan,” Samson added.

In the penultimate over, with 36 runs needed off 12 balls, Samson was kept off strike. India needed 30 runs off the last over that Tabraiz Shamsi had to bow. The over started with a wide and then Samson hit a six and two fours to make it interesting with 15 off 3 balls needed. The next ball was however a dot ball and that ended India’s hopes. Samson finished with 20 runs in the over.

Samson then spoke about the nature of death overs batting when asked what the bowlers can learn from the match.

“I made 80 odd runs but I also made mistakes. It was a learning lesson for us and we would look to make up for that in the next match. We have some space to improve but we also need to look at the batsman we are bowling at. Someone like David Miller who is the best finisher in the world at the moment, we responded decently and bowling against him in this ground was very challenging.

“We responded decently I think. Nowadays 50 runs in 5 overs has become normal, we did not do all that badly, but definitely we can improve.”

The pitch was damp initially and offered movement for the bowlers, as the rain in Lucknow had been persistent.

“Even in South Africa’s innings, you could see it was difficult to make runs with the new ball. After 15-20 overs (David) Miller and (Heinrich) Klaasen batted really well, it became easy. The ball was sticking on the pitch wasn’t moving. Batting became easy after 20 overs like how we also batted well. Because there was moisture on the wicket due to the rain,” Samson said.

The Rajasthan Royals captain also said he thrives on the expectations that fans have on him, and it makes him work even harder to do well.

The second ODI will be played at Ranchi on Sunday.

(With quote inputs from PTI)