South Africa clinch series against India

24 January 2011

India’s Yusuf Pathan seemed poised to steal a win away from South Africa in the fifth one-day international at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Sunday, but a fourth wicket from Morne Morkel put the Proteas back on course for victory in the match and the series.

A 34-run victory gave South African skipper Graeme Smith a win, as well as a series victory over India, in his final match as the Proteas’ one-day captain on home soil. All that remains of his ODI career is the World Cup in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which starts on 19 February.

It was a series that South Africa could have won much more convincingly, but India, under former South African opening batsman Gary Kirsten, showed the fight that has lifted them to the top of the test rankings and second in the ODI standings.

World Cup preparation

One thing that Smith, Morne Morkel and Hashim Amla agreed upon, when they were interviewed at the post-match presentation, is that the series had been excellent preparation for the World Cup.

Morkel was named man of the series after finishing it with 12 wickets at the miserly average of 11.41 per wicket. He was pushed closely by Lonwabo Tsotsobe in the bowling department, with the tall left-armer leading all wicket takers with 13 at an excellent average of 13.53.

Amla was the highest run scorer from either team, tallying 250 at an average of 62.50. JP Duminy followed just behind him with 244 at 61.00, while India’s top scorer was Virat Kohli with 193 at 48.25.

Toss

On Sunday in Centurion, India won the toss and captain MS Dhoni elected to field.

His decision was rewarded in the third over when South African captain Smith was out for seven after he nicked one to Yusuf Pathan at slip off Zaheer Khan. However, the Proteas then took charge of proceedings with a fine partnership between Hashim Amla and Morne van Wyk.

Van Wyk played with attacking intent, which allowed Amla to play the anchor role. Van Wyk struck eight fours, whilst exhibiting some clever stroke making, before he fell to a fantastic reflex catch by Yuvraj Singh off his own bowling.

Healthy

When he departed, the Proteas innings looked very healthy after a partnership of 97 runs, which had lifted the total to 113.

AB de Villiers didn’t last long before he was caught far out of his crease and was easily stumped by Dhoni off the bowling of Yuvraj, who showed throughout the series that he is a more than useful part-timer with his left-arm spin.

That brought JP Duminy to the crease. He and Amla took the score to 226 for 3 after 42 overs but were then forced from the field because of rain. When play resumed, the South African innings had been reduced to 46 overs and the slog was on.

Partnership

Duminy was out for 35, caught and bowled by Munaf Patel, with the total on 231 after a stand of 102 with Amla. He played an intelligent knock and worked the ball around to keep the scoreboard ticking despite striking only one four.

The Proteas’ attempt to tack on some boundaries at the end of the innings fell flat as Patel added the wickets of Faf du Plessis for eight and Johan Botha for two.

Robin Peterson was bowled by Zaheer Khan for four and two runs outs, both for ducks, of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel further undermined the Proteas’ batting efforts.

Important ball

South Africa’s last batsman Lonwabo Tsotsobe needed to face only one ball, but the importance of that single delivery was huge. If Tsotsobe was dismissed, the Duckworth/Lewis method would no longer be required and that would mean that the total India needed to chase would not be inflated by the calculations of the method.

Proteas’ skipper Graeme Smith admitted afterwards that it had been a nervous time for him as he tried to get a message to Tsotsobe about the importance of keeping his wicket.

South Africa finished on 250 for 9 with Amla undefeated on 116 off 132 deliveries, including nine fours.

Munaf Patel led India’s bowlers with a haul of 3 for 50 off eight overs. His new ball partner Zaheer Khan picked up 2 for 47 in nine, while Yuvraj contributed 2 for 45 off eight overs.

Victory target

With the Duckworth/Lewis method in play, India was set a victory target of 268 off 46 overs.

They started off in positive fashion, but were pegged back in the fourth over when Rohit Sharma played on to a slower ball from Tsotsobe for five.

South Africa celebrated wildly when Morne Morkel had the dangerous and highly-regarded Virat Kolhi caught behind by wicketkeeper De Villiers for two after a peach of a delivery.

That brought Indian captain MS Dhoni to the wicket. He didn’t last long, out for five after being caught well to his left by SA skipper Graeme Smith at slip after Dhoni slashed at a ball from Morkel. At 45 for 3 the Indian innings was wobbling.

Sublime catch

Opening batsman Pathiv Patel, meanwhile, was on song and scoring freely. With the total on 60 he was dismissed after a sublime catch by Du Plessis off the bowling of Morkel.

Patel had struck 38 off only 33 deliveries when he cracked a low drive towards Du Plessis at short extra cover. Diving forward, Du Plessis had to invert his right hand as if it was a baseball glove to get under the ball. Miraculously, he pulled off the catch and, after the third umpire had examined television replays, Patel was gone after an entertaining knock.

India sunk into deeper trouble when Yuvraj Singh was the fifth man out with the total on 60. He played a loose shot at a slower ball from Dale Steyn, driving on the up and straight to Duminy at point, who secured an easy catch.

All sorts of trouble

When Suresh Raina was dismissed for 11 with the total on 74, India were in all sorts of trouble. Raina had been found out during the course of India’s tour as a man who struggles against the short ball and it once again proved his downfall.

Steyn sent down a fast delivery which gave Raina a little space outside his off stump. He attempted a cut high over third man, but the ball didn’t carry far enough and Morkel got under it to take the catch. Raina’s exit brought Yusuf Pathan to the wicket.

Together with Harbhajan Singh, Pathan took the score to 98 before Harbhajan was the next man out in the procession of Indian batsmen coming and going out. He steered Johan Botha directly to Duminy at mid-wicket and left for 13, which brought Piyush Chawla out to the middle with India on the ropes.

Challenge all but finished

Pathan was playing some powerful attacking shots, but Chawla didn’t last long before he was bowled by Robin Peterson for 8, which left India on 119 for 8 and their challenge all but finished.

South Africa appeared to have claimed a ninth wicket in the 27th over when Zaheer was caught off a short ball from Morkel. However, a replay showed that the tall paceman had over-stepped and a no ball was called. With his batting partner having received a reprieve, Pathan let loose with an array of attacking shots.

Morkel was crushed for 16 runs in an over. Later, Botha went for 16 too. Tsotsobe gave up 21 runs in the very next over as Pathan brought up a stunning century off only 68 deliveries.

Unstoppable

By the end of the 35th over, India had reached 218 for 8 and Pathan appeared all but unstoppable. There was concern on the faces of the Proteas. Captain Smith had to find a way to staunch the flow of runs, so he turned to his best bowler during the ODI series, Morkel, who had already picked up three wickets on the day.

Zaheer took a run of Morkel’s first ball, bringing Yusuf on strike. Once again, he went for a big shot over the top, but this time did not get hold of it. Faf du Plessis got under it and pouched the catch to the massive relief of the South African team.

Pathan was out for a sensational 105 off only 70 balls, including eight sixes and eight fours. It was an incredible knock, coming as it did from the number seven batsman in India’s order. In fact, he had become the first man in the history of one-day internationals to score two centuries from so low down the order.

Pressure off

With Pathan out and the last man Munaf Patel at the crease the pressure was off the South African bowlers. He and Zaheer hung around for a while, but South Africa finally closed out the game and the series in the 41st over when Zaheer was caught by Morkel off the bowling of Tsotsobe for a defiant 24.

India were all out for 234, 35 runs short of their required victory target.

Morkel finished with 4 for 52 off eight overs, while Dale Steyn captured 2 for 32 in nine, and Tsotsobe 2 for 57 in 7.2 overs.

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