Sunday, February 22, 2015
Clinical India exposed South Africa's wounds for a lick.
After South Africa's humiliation at the hand of India, AB de Villiers said it was 'unacceptable'. However, the way the Proteas fared at MCG against India, the result looked pretty acceptable.
Besides manufacturing two brilliant run-outs - thanks to de Villiers only - to send Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja back in the hut, South Africa's bowling and fielding remained dismal.
There were misfieldings galore, and Amla floored Dhawan's catch, while the latter was on 53, who eventually capitalised on that to score 137. Means, the Proteas had to concede 84 invaluable runs.
Actually that was the first turning point of the match.
Then came the second turning point of the match, as Rahane played a superb knock of 79 runs off 60 balls in no real time. That knock was not only a treat to watch but also effective like anything - because if Rahane were dismissed at that point of time, post Kohli's wicket, India could be on the back-foot straightway.
It was Dhoni's masterstroke to send Rahane ahead of Raina - unlike the Pakistan's game - to keep the right-hand, left-hand combination going... disturbing the South African bowlers' line and, as a result, their length.
The decision paid off, handsomely.
On the other hand, Philander's injury helped India quite well; more so, as Parnell kept bowling all over the place. Even Steyn was stained and Morkel seemed to be breathless within his first spell.
In contrast, first Kohli and Dhawan and then Dhawan and Rahane showed no sign of nerves. They kept playing in a relaxed manner, taking no risk whatsoever, but dispatching anything loose to the fence with an intent.
Simply put, that was a sublime display of batting all through the Indian innings.
Chasing 307 at MCG was never an easy task for the Proteas who had by then shown no sign of confidence with the ball.
The first shot played by de Kock made it clear that South Africa perhaps had no plan to put up a proper chase.
Once Amla got out, hooking Mohit Sharma's bouncer to offer Shami a dolly in the deep at long-leg, the writing on the wall became evident.
Though de Villiers walked out in the middle and there was an expectation for some magic and fireworks; however that was not easy, given the line and length Indian bowlers had already settled into.
The good length spots that Shami, Umesh, and Mohit kept hitting constantly happened to be phenomenal.
Besides, neither Jadeja nor Ashiwn was in any mood to deliver anything loose, so more of an industrious, patient, and intelligent application was needed from de Villiers and du Plessis than trying to muscle the ball around the park.
An odd boundary in every two overs compounded with 3 to 4 singles in every over would have been ideal for the Proteas.
They too perhaps thought so, thus started to bat, mindfully, before de Villiers overran in a way to get himself run-out, taking a clumsy turn at the non-striker end, underestimating Mohit's throwing capability to some extent - what it looked to be, given no diving effort from the batsman to reach home safely, while it was tight, really tight.
(Instead of running by forming the white curve, had AB run by following the yellow arrow, he would surely have completed the second run, comfortably).
Once de Villiers departed, South Africa was clearly under pressure because having batsmen in the dressing room and having them out in the middle to perform and deliver, when chips are down, are totally different ball games in any form of cricket - especially in a run chase of a target... over 300.
In that situation, as Miller was hitting the ball sweetly, the need of the hour was for du Plessis to rotate the strike and play a sheet anchor's role.
But he had different ideas, so tried to play an extravagant shot to throw his wicket away for nothing at the wrong time.
Duminy never looked settled in his short vigil at the crease and eventually played a suicidal reverse sweep off Ashwin to give Raina a catching practice at first slip.
Miller got run-out immediately after Duminy's dismissal, owing to an accurate throw from the deep square-leg by Umesh into Dhoni's gloves.
South Africa's ignominy (177/10 in 40.2 overs) was finally over, as Jadeja trapped Imran Tahir for a plumb LBW decision.
In a nutshell, clinical India exposed South Africa's wounds for a lick.