Arshdeep Singh and Deepak Chahar hit the South Africans hard with some magical bowling before Suryakumar Yadav’s little gem on a difficult track secured an easy eight-wicket win for India in the first T20 International here on Wednesday.
A target of 107 on a pitch with underlying humidity and waist-high bounce at times was a struggle before Suryakumar (50 not out in 33 balls) released the pressure created by KL Rahul (51 not out, 56 balls) as India won the match in 16.4 overs to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
The pitch which former India head coach Ravi Shastri described on air as “not ideal for T20 cricket” had batsmen from both teams struggling to cope with both pace and movement.
It was Arshdeep (3/32) and Chahar (2/24) who essentially settled the problem for India within the first 15 deliveries of the start after skipper Rohit Sharma called it right at the toss. Once South Africa slipped to 9/5 in 2.3 overs, the game as a contest was over and 106/8 even on a difficult track was a subpar score.
The South Africans made an effort in defence.
Kagiso Rabada bowled an ideal Test match which he bowled on length and rose as he moved a shadow and all Rohit Sharma (0) could do was hang his bat in the corridor of uncertainty.
Virat Kohli (3) got an express delivery from Anrich Nortje that kept climbing as it tried to get away from his body and Quinton de Kock took the edge.
Surya, India’s best T20 batsman by distance, hit a six when his attempted flick turned into an outside edge that flew over third man for a Nortje maximum.
The next six was a perfect whip over deep square leg and then an inside-out six from Keshav Maharaj indicated that he is India’s in-form man.
Rahul’s batting at the other end of the same stretch turned into an ordeal as India had their lowest Powerplay score on board.
Only that there was no pressure on the scoreboard, Rahul was able to play his waiting game once and the only shot worth appreciating was a six from Nortje.
Earlier, Arshdeep and Chahar made the Kookaburra whitewash do the talking with some incisive bowling after Jasprit Bumrah pulled out of the game due to his recurring back problem which has resurfaced.
The duo moved the ball both ways, making full use of their mid-air jab and surface bounce.
Temba Bavuma (0) was nicely bowled by Chahar with some stock swingers, which the skipper left alone before a banana inswinger sent him through the wicket. The deflection to the batsman was as big as it could get.
Arshdeep started by shadowing the ball to the left and Quinton de Kock (1) in his attempt to get a move dragged one towards the stumps.
The other left-hander Rilee Rossouw (0) also chased a wide outswinger (inswinger by the bowler) to clip one to Rishabh Pant behind the stumps.
But it was Arshdeep’s delivery to David Miller (0) that will be remembered for a long time.
Miller was expecting an outswinger and had committed on the front foot only to find the bowler had managed one to lean towards him. His atrocious shot across the line would have resulted in only one thing and that was rolling over.
New T20 sensation Tristan Stubbs (0) failed to get enough wood for his deep cut to a Chahar delivery that bounced a shade further. The result was Arshdeep taking a well-judged catch in front.
With five wickets gone, there was no comeback for South Africa and, predictably, there was no change in the script.