Despite a late blitz from Sanju Samson that almost earned his side an unlikely victory, South Africa beat India by nine runs in their first ODI in Lucknow. With rain restricting the match to 40 overs a side, the South African were put into bat and made 249/4 from their allocated overs. India could only muster 240/8 in reply.
With all those involved in the World Cup on the India side having already departed for Australia, Shikhar Dhawan led a depleted team, although there was no place for debutants Rajat Patidar and Mukesh Kumar. South Africa, by contrast, were at virtually full strength.
When play did finally get underway after the start was delayed by rain, the tourists made a sluggish start, with their opening pair of Janneman Malan and Quinton de Kock kept in check by some disciplined Indian bowling.
After Malan was the first to fall for 22, the innings then stumbled with two wickets in six balls, including another failure for captain Temba Bavuma.
However, the arrival of David Miller at the crease, one of the stars of the T20I series, helped the tourists press the accelerator, and he and Heinrich Klaasen shared an unbeaten stand of 139 for the fifth wicket.
Klaasen made 74 not out off 65 balls, including 2 sixes and 6 fours, whilst Miller, with a slightly better strike rate, was unbeaten on 75. That was made off 63 balls and featured 3 sixes and 5 fours.
Three dropped catches at the end did not help the Indian chances.
India made a poor start to their reply, losing both openers Dhawan and Shubman Gill cheaply.
They were soon adrift of the required run rate, before Shreyas Iyer pressed his credentials as a World Cup back-up by making a counter attacking 50.
However, when he was dismissed his side’s predicament looked hopeless. Sanju Samson had other ideas though, and he launched a one man attack of his own, making not out of 63 balls, including 3 sixes and 9 fours. He took a particular liking to the bowling of spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, whose eight overs cost 89 runs (on a pro-rate basis up there as one of the most expensive spells in ODI history).
With Shardul Thakur, Samson put on 93 for the sixth wicket, and, although they fell short in the end, it was a brave effort.
Key talking points
Mixed day for World Cup replacements
It was a mixed day for the Indian World Cup replacements playing in this match. Whilst Iyer did his own claims no harm at all, young spinner Ravi Bishnoi’s eight overs cost him 69 runs, although he did take the wicket of de Kock, leg before for 48.
And, whilst Mohammed Siraj was more economical, he hardly looked threatening during his spell, and did little to suggest that he could be the replacement in Australia for the injured Jasprit Bumrah.
Fielding costs India
After the match, captain Dhawan admitted that the Indian fielding was not up to scratch. Not only were catches dropped, but, given that the ball was swinging and offered some help to the spinners, too many runs were leaked. It is an area they need to improve in the next two matches.
Another day, another failure for Bavuma
Life does not get any better for South African skipper Bavuma. Although he made 8 this time before he was bowled by Thakur, which represents his highest score of the total that was his fourth successive single digit score. At what point do the South African selectors decide that they have to cut their losses and jettison him from their World Cup squad?
Samson continues his recent form
Samson had ended the recent unofficial three match ODI series against New Zealand as the highest run scorer, and he was able to carry that form into this match. It was a timely reminder of what he can do on the main stage and suggests that, when the 50 over a side World Cup is played in India, the likes of Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik could face serious competition for the role of wicketkeeper/batter.
On another day, had those ahead of him done better with the bat, he might have pulled off an improbable victory.
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