South Africa’s white ball tour of India got off to a bad start as they were well-beaten in their first T20I in Thiruvananthapuram. Put into bat on a greenish pitch offering plenty of help to the swing bowlers, they never recovered after slumping to 9/5 inside three overs, and their final total of 106/8 from well below a competitive score.
India scored the necessary runs for the loss of just two wickets, with more than three overs in hand.
The tone was set right form the first over of the match with Deepak Chahar removing the South African captain Temba Bavuma. And then his strike partner Arshdeep Singh took over, claiming three wickets in his first over as the South African batters struggled with the conditions.
By the time that Chahar removed Tristan Stubbs, the player who fetched a record price at the recent SA20 auction, the South African batting line-up had had the guts ripped out of it.
Aiden Markram and Wayne Parnell at least stopped the rot by adding 33 for the sixth wicket, but it was left to Keshav Maharaj to bring a veneer of respectability to the scoreboard, scoring 41 off 35 balls, including 2 sixes.
Singh took 3 – 32 and Chahar 2 – 24, whilst Harshal Patel picked up two wickets as well.
Batting was not easy as India found out themselves, with both Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli found to their cost, both caught behind cheaply. But KL Rahul and Suryakumar Yadav – celebrating his elevation to number two in the ICC T20I rankings – ensured there would be no further alarms, sharing an unbeaten stand of 93 for the third wicket.
Key talking points
Bowling understudies shine
India made the somewhat surprising decision to leave both their front-line fast bowlers, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. But their understudies, Singh and Chahar, proved they were more than up to the task with a fine display of swing bowling, taking full advantage of the conditions.
Given how valuable Kumar, in particular, has proven recently in the death overs, they may have given the selectors something to think about ahead of the World Cup.
Record setter Yadav
It was another fine match for Yadav, who also had a good series against Australia. Not only did he make an unbeaten 50, but he also took his run aggregate in 2022 for India to 732 in T2OIs, which is a new Indian record for a calendar year, surpassing the previous best of 689 by Shikhar Dhawan. He averages 40.6, and has made one century and five 50s this year to date.
And the three sixes he struck during his innings is another record. He has now 45 maximums to his name in 2-22, the most by any player ever in a calendar year, eclipsing the 42 scored by Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan in 2021.
Rahul will take encouragement
Yadav’s batting partner KL Rahul will also take encouragement from this performance after what has been a mixed few months, during which time his place in the side has been in question a number of times.
He was patient and watchful at the start of his innings, acclimatising to the conditions. But he then accelerated as batting became easier, and when the South African fast bowlers began to tire, he hit 4 sixes of his own in bringing up an unbeaten half century.
South Africans need to improve
On this performance, South Africa have a lot of improvements to make if they are to be a competitive force in the World Cup. In particular, whilst they may claim to be surprised by the conditions in Thiruvananthapuram, they could well find themselves playing on similar pitches in Australia.
Other teams will now have noted their vulnerability against swing bowling and will prepare their plans accordingly. They do have a strong bowling line-up, but their batters first have to give them a total that they can defend.
Given that these two teams will meet again in Group 2 of the Super 12 competition at the World Cup next month, India will feel that they have laid down a big psychological marker.
Fortunately they have two more chances to make at least partial amends, at Guwahati on Sunday and In Indore two days later, and they will want to give a much better account of themselves.
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