South Africa came into the second T20I in Centurion with one eye on the weather. Skipper JP Duminy chose to field first after winning the toss. The decision was based largely on the fact that rain was in the air, he clarified.
As the Proteas went about chasing India’s target of 189, they did so by keeping pace with the DLS par score even as it drizzled constantly through the game. As it turned out, the weather did not cause any disruption. But, South Africa still prevailed despite all their efforts to play for the rain.
The Duminy-led outfit cruised to a six-wicket win to make it 1-1 and keep the three-match series alive going into the final game at Cape Town.
Lower-order makes amends
One of the major criticisms that was directed towards the Indian outfit after first T20I in Johannesburg was the lack of gumption shown by the lower-order. From 110/3 after 10 overs, the team went on to post a total of 203. The lack of fireworks, late in the innings, did not sit well with most critics, most of whom laid into No 5 batsman Manish Pandey. The 28-year-old scored just 29 from 27 deliveries. While India still went onto win the game, the lack of firepower down the order raised eyebrows.
On Wednesday, Pandey made amends as he stroked a fluent 79* after coming into bat with the side placed precariously at 45/3. MS Dhoni, who was dismissed for 16 in the previous game, remained unbeaten on 52 as he gave India a solid finish with some vintage big heaves in the death overs.
But, it was Pandey who gave India the impetus as the top-order folded early. The Centurion holds good memories for Pandey. He made his only T20 hundred in the 2009 IPL that first put him in the spotlight.
Not a regular in the playing XI, it was imperative for Pandey to make most of his opportunity. After a not so pleasing display in the first game, the onus was on him to deliver.
Known for his aggressive brand of batting, Pandey did just that as he went about dismantling the South Africa pacers, who had looked menacing as the ball swerved in the air early on. He shared an unbeaten stand of 98 for the fifth wicket. Their effort saw India score 103 runs in the final 10 overs and helped set a competitive target for South Africa, who were looking to keep the series alive.
The game began on time, but it was played in its entirety under the looming threat of a downpour. The Women’s T20I played early in the day between India and South Africa was washed out after persistent rain. As the day progressed, the dampness did not subside but the intensity did reduce. The umpires, though, did not take the players off even though there was a light drizzle through much of South Africa’s chase.
The wet conditions meant that India’s bowlers could not quite grip the ball well. Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal struggled the most as he finished with figures of 4-0-64-0.
The tweaker, who enjoyed an impervious campaign through the ODI series, was pummelled to all parts of the ground.
The pacers could not get the same bite as they did in the previous game. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who caused havoc in the previous game with a five-wicket haul, failed to pick up a wicket on Wednesday. Other pacers Shardul Thakur, Jaydev Unadkat and Hardik Pandya too could not cause much of an impact as the South Africa batsmen went about their chase in a clinical manner.
“I thought it was a winning total,” lamented Kohli after the match. “The weather made it hard for the bowlers. Till the 12th over it was fine, but the drizzle made it bad. South Africa took calculated risks, credit to them,” he added.
Klaasen prospers in the rain, again
These calculated risks began mainly after keeper-batsman Heinrich Klaasen came into the middle.
South Africa were 38/2 and the drizzle had just build up. The hosts were well behind the DLS par score and needed one batsman to help them stay ahead of the curve.
Klaasen had led the team to victory in the run-curtailed pink ODI, their only win during the 50-over leg of India’s tour. With the rain gods once again in the picture, Klaasen once again thrived. He came in swinging. His aggressive approach gave impetus to the South African chase. He smashed 69 runs in just 30 deliveries. Klaasen batted at a strike rate of 230 and bludgeoned three boundaries and seven sixes along the way.
“It’s really special, at my home ground - it was something I dreamed of as a kid,” said Klaasen after the game.
It wasn’t just the runs, but the manner in which he scored them that was most intriguing. Reverse hits, sweeps and a few lusty blows down the ground. He even smashed a few down the ground for good measure. India’s bowlers had no answer to Klaasen’s ways.
“You just gotta put the bowler under pressure and show them your skills,” said Klaasen. “I’ve got a cool, calm head at the moment and I’m pleased with my cricket over the last year and a half,” he added.
The 26-year-old targeted Chahal in particular and negated the wrist-spinners threat completely.
With Chahal taken out of the picture, the rest of South Africa’s batting line-up also found space to assert themselves. Klaasen shared a crucial 93-run stand with skipper Duminy, who took over the reigns after the former’s departure in the 14th over. Duminy took his team over the line with an unbeaten 64.