Smart bowling in the middle overs and a brisk half-century from skipper Quinton de Kock powered South Africa to a thumping nine-wicket victory over India in the third and final T20I as the two sides shared the series spoils 1-1 here on Sunday.
After India self-destructed through senseless batting to settle for a below-par 134/9, the Proteas rode on a wonderful knock from de Kock (79 not out, 52b, 6×5, 5×6) to gallop home in just 16.5 overs at a near-packed Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Indians have only themselves to blame for the defeat. After blazing away to a confident start, they kept gifting away wickets at regular interval owing to reckless shotmaking to make life easier for the South Africans. Lead pacer Kagiso Rabada, looking extremely off colour at the start, conceded 17 runs in the second over of the innings itself and it appeared like the Indian top-order would yet again boss over an opposition.
Quick thinking de Kock immediately summoned Beuran Hendricks and the pacer made an instant impact, exposing Rohit’s discomfort against left-hand seamers. Shikhar Dhawan, slowly returning to form, and skipper Virat Kohli however kept going at a steady pace.
The strategy to keep hitting the accelerator every ball and some clever South Africa bowling then brought about the downfall of the duo in quick succession. Dhawan was the first to depart, stepping down to Tabraiz Shamsi and miscuing an attempted loft in the eighth over. Kohli then followed his fellow Delhi mate to the dug-out, his aerial flick shot off Rabada caught brilliantly in the deep by Andile Phehlukwayo.
Young duo of Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer then embraced caution to steady the ship. They chose to get their eye in but sadly, to their dismay, the moment they chose the open their shoulders, they too departed in quick succession. Credit must be given to left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin for luring then into their doom.
He threw one wide and Pant, batting sensibly until then, fell for the bait. He tried to deposit the ball over the long-off boundary but instead mistimed it to end up being caught in the deep. Two balls later Iyer stepped down the track and an alert Fortuin bowled it down the leg-side, the batsman easily stumped by de Kock. And when Krunal Pandya too perished, India were in deep trouble at 98/6. Thereafter, things just became difficult for the Indians. Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja repaired the damage with cautious batting but couldn’t get the flourish towards the end.
Having got a measure of the pitch and aware they weren’t chasing a massive total, the South Africans went about their chase in a professional manner. De Kock, who has a liking for the Indians, played some exhilarating shots, sparing none of the bowlers. His shots, through the covers and deep midwicket region, had Kohli scratching his head and the near-packed stadium in spellbound.
De Kock kept batting at a brisk pace right throughout his innings and Indians, by the midway stage of the innings, just started going through the motions in the hope of a Protean collapse. That never happened as de Kock and Temba Bavuma carried them home to a commanding win.