Deadly below-par bowling coupled with ordinary fielding and batting, barring Sanju Samson and Shreyas Iyer, hurt a second-string Indian side as they slumped to a nine-run defeat against South Africa in the rain-truncated first ODI of the three-match series here on Thursday.
Electing to bowl in the rain-trimmed 40-over game, India started on the right note, reducing South Africa to 110 for 4 in 22.4 overs before David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen hit impressive half-centuries to guide South Africa to 249 for 4.
At 110 for four, Miller (75 not out from 63 balls) and Klaasen (74 not out from 65 balls) added 139 runs for the unbroken fifth wicket to take the visitors close to the 250-run mark.
Shardul Thakur was the pick of India’s bowlers with figures of 2/35 from eight overs.
The Indian bowlers struggled in the death overs, conceding 54 runs in the last five overs.
If that wasn’t enough, the Indian players dropped as many as four catches in the field to help South Africa’s cause.
Chasing a stiff target of 250, Samson (86 not out from 63 balls) and Iyer (50 from 37 balls) hit fifties, while Shardul Thakur (33 from 31 balls) used the long handle to good effect towards the end , But it was not so. enough in the end
India suffered a disastrous start to their chase, losing both Shubman Gill (3) and skipper Shikhar Dhawan (4) cheaply to be reduced to 8 for 2 in six overs.
While Kagiso Rabada cleaned up Gill in the third over, Dhawan placed one inside his stumps off a Wayne Parnell delivery in the sixth over.
Ishan Kishan and debutant Ruturaj Gaikwad tried to stabilize the innings with a 48-run partnership for the third wicket before Quinton de Kock was caught off-guard by the bowling of Tabraiz Shamsi as India slumped to 48 for 3 in 16.4 overs.
In the reserves for T20 World Cup selection, Iyer helped his cause with a 37-ball 50 and along with Sanju Samson shared 67 runs for the fifth wicket to keep India in the hunt.
Iyer decorated his innings with eight hits to the fence before delivering a simple catch to Rabada at mid off off the bowling of Lungi Ngidi.
But Samson and Thakur kept India in the hunt with a 93-run strike partnership off just 64 balls for the sixth wicket.
With India needing 45 from the final three overs, Ngidi struck twice, dismissing Thakur and Kuldeep Yadav in successive balls to give South Africa the lead.
Needing 30 from the last over, Samson tried his best, smashing a six and three fours, but to no avail.
Sent into bat earlier, South Africa got off to a relatively slow start, reaching 41 for no loss after 10 overs.
India skipper Shikhar Dhawan’s decision to play was justified by new bowlers Mohammed Siraj and Avesh Khan.
Siraj in particular was brilliant as he swung the ball both ways to trouble the Proteas batsmen initially but to no avail.
Dhawan introduced Shardul Thakur in the ninth over and within two balls the pacer gave his side the first chance, inducing a lead from Janneman Malan, but Shubman Gill dropped a quarry at first slip.
But Shardul got his man four overs later when Malan bowled a straight one to Shreyas Iyer at short-wicket.
South African skipper Temba Bavuma (8) made leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi concede 31 runs from his first three overs.
Bavuma, who was struggling for runs in the previous T20I series, swept the reverse and drove Bishnoi for two boundaries in the 14th over.
But Bavuma’s short, attacking innings were cut short by Thakur, who went through his defense as the batsman registered another single-digit score on the tour.
Kuldeep Yadav gave India another breakthrough early on, cleaning up Aiden Markram for a duck with strong leg-spin.
Quinton de Kock calmly went about his business and held an end together before perishing in the 23rd over.
De Kock scored 48 off 54 balls with the help of five boundaries before being caught in front of the wicket by Bishnoi as South Africa slumped to 110 for 4 in the 23rd over.
Two overs later, Miller effortlessly hit the first six of the visitors’ innings, straight over the long-on boundary off Bishnoi’s bowling.
Miller and Klaasen brought the attack to the opposition. Miller played sensibly and dispatched the loose balls to the boundary to register his 18th half-century off 50 balls with the help of four boundaries and a hit over the fence.
Klaasen soon followed suit and registered his fourth ODI fifty in 52 balls.
Death by bowling continued to haunt India as Miller and Klaasen brought up their century partnership in just 84 balls.
To add to that, India dropped as many as four catches, showing poor standards in the outfield.