Spinners at wheel, India take U-turn

Rishabh Pant lost his third successive toss of the series but his spinners bounced back from two disappointing outings in Delhi and Cuttack to plot South Africa’s downfall in Visakhapatnam and keep India alive in the five-match T20I series with a comprehensive 48-run win.

Having seen how the Indian batting had stalled in the latter half of the first innings, and the purchase the South African spinners had managed despite going for a few runs, Pant gave Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel three overs each in the first half of the chase. Axar delivered the wicket of South African skipper Temba Bavuma in his first over, and Chahal, bowling quick, flat and skiddy, sent back Dwaine Pretorius and Rassie van der Dussen.

Just after the halfway mark, Harshal Patel’s well-disguised slower one accounted for the dangerous David Miller. At 71 for 5 after 11 overs in a chase of 180, Cuttack hero Heinrich Klaasen had too much work to do, and not enough partners to share the load.

Chahal and Axar had gone for 68 in five overs in Cuttack, and 66 in six overs in Delhi, for a solitary collective strike in each game. With barely any purchase available off the surface at Barabati Stadium for the spinners, Klaasen had been able to make room and slam Chahal over extra cover almost all the way to the rope. Some flight on a tighter line had been slogged comfortably over deep midwicket.

But in Visakhapatnam, Tabraiz Shamsi found some grip and turn right away. During the innings break, Ruturaj Gaikwad told the commentators that considering the South African spinners had bowled slower, the message to the Indian counterparts would be to do the same. And Chahal started in that manner – tossing up a teaser, getting drift into Reeza Hendricks and bursting across the right-hander to take a healthy outside edge that proved to be too much deviation for Pant to get near.

But to the others, Chahal often pushed it through flat, quick and skiddy, although he did throw in the loopy, tantalising wide one now and then. He still found enough nip in the corridor to have Pretorius and van der Dussen caught behind.

By the time Miller departed, the match was practically decided, barring another miracle from Klaasen. But Chahal, who had one over left, came back to take out the man who has successfully taken him on both home and away previously, and has also said that he fancies the leg-spinner “quite a lot.” Chahal consumed Klaasen the way he gobbles up so many batsmen in T20s, with the inviting wide baiter that somehow drops out of the reach of numerous swishing blades.

Gaikwad, Kishan set it up

After India were asked to bat first yet again, Ruturaj Gaikwad came good after a couple of failures for his maiden international half-century. At the start, it seemed a pitch more suited to Gaikwad’s timing than Kishan’s power, and South Africa fed the Maharashtra batsman’s strengths with pace and poor lines.

There were a couple of gorgeous flicked sixes from Gaikwad off Kagiso Rabada and Pretorius, and he went after Anrich Nortje with four fours in five deliveries, cutting, charging and clipping with confidence. In the same over, though, Nortje grazed Gaikwad’s grille with a brutal incutting bouncer, and could have had him caught had short third man been more alert.

India had their fair share of luck on the night; Pant and Hardik Pandya were both dropped soon after they came in, after Kishan’s slice fell inches in front of an advancing deep point. Nevertheless, after Gaikwad had seized the momentum, Kishan kept the innings rolling with his usual mixture of sweeps, slogs, slog-sweeps and reverse-sweeps.

An opening stand of 97 in ten overs seemed to have set India up for a total in excess of 200. But South Africa had, belatedly in hindsight, warmed up to the advantage of the slower ones and the hard lengths. Following a couple of soft dismissals to spin, Pretorius dislodged Kishan and Pant with wide and slow deliveries that stuck into the pitch. Wayne Parnell nailed the yorkers at the death as India managed only 82 from the last ten overs. However, it would be more than enough for Chahal and Co to achieve India’s first successful defense of the series.


https://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/india-vs-south-africa-3rd-t20i-match-report-7969960/

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