India pulled off a second consecutive thrilling win against hosts South Africa after defeating them by 2 wickets in the Third ODI at Cape Town. It was a modest scoring affair once again and this time, the roles reversed as India was the chasing side under lights and unlike SA, they didn’t choke under pressure. The main heroes of the Indian win were Yusuf Pathan and Harbhajan Singh with both of them putting up an all-round show to help India to a 2-1 Series lead.
South Africa Innings
The toss was won by Graeme Smith and he elected to bat first on a pitch that was expected to take turn but wasn’t going to be that conducive for the seam bowlers. Batting was expected to be easy against the new ball atleast. Both the sides made a change each with India replacing Sachin Tendulkar with Yusuf Pathan and SA giving ODI Debut to middle order batsman – Faf du Plessis in the place of David Miller.
The hosts were off too a poor start with Hashim Amla (16) dragging a rash drive onto his stumps in the 7th over to a Zaheer Khan delivery from round the sticks. SA from 31 for 1 at that stage found it difficult to keep the scoreboard ticking as Smith and Ingram were tucked up by some nice bowling. Colin Ingram (10) perished to a turning off break from HarbhajanSingh and his outside edge was well snapped by a forward diving Virat Kohli at slip to have the score at 49 for 2 in 13.1 overs. Next man AB de Villiers(16) tried to keep things moving with his skipper but got caught nicely by Zaheer Khan took a running catch to help Yusuf Pathan get a wicket off his third ball of the match! It was more of a long hop and AB de Villiers looking to pull it for a six failed to get hold of his shot and it was an outstanding catch from Zaheer as SA found itself at 83 for 3 in 20.3 overs.
There was a huge blow for the hosts in the 24th over when Graeme Smith trying to play a predetermined paddle sweep got a leading edge to a widish off break from Harbhajan which was caught by Kohli. Smith walked back with an uncharacteristic 43 from 79 balls. At 90 for 4, debutant Faf du Plessis walked in to join JP Duminy. India almost got the fifth wicket when JP Duminy survived a huge run out scare when he was sent back from a single towards point by Faf du Plessis in the 25th over and fortunately for SA, the third Umpire gave the benefit of doubt to the batsman. That was a turning point in the SA innings as Duminy with the impressive Faf du Plessis forged a beautiful partnership which provided the launching pad.
South Africa took the Batting Powerplay in the 45th over and that was when they lost the plot yet again in the series. The next five overs saw just 25 runs coming at the loss of four wickets. First to go was Faf du Plessis (60 from 78 balls with 2 fours) who smacked a Munaf Patel slower one straight to Kohli at extra covers in the 45th over. The debutant added 110 runs for the 5th wicket with Duminy who got bowled three balls later, round his legs while trying to flick Zaheer Khan after shuffling far too across. Duminy finished with 52 from 59 balls with 2 fours and when he left, SA were reduced to 202 for 6. India did a efficient clean-up job to bowl out SA for 220 in 49.2 overs with Zaheer and Munaf taking a wicket each and two run outs to wrap up things.
The best bowler on show was perhaps Harbhajan Singh with 9-1-23-2 while Zaheer with 9.2-0-43-3 and Munaf with 10-1-42-2 had done a good job as well. The part-time bowlers Yuvraj and Yusuf Pathan too contributed their bit in curtailing the runs.
South Africa having got a slightly lesser total fought back with the ball to make the inroads and have India reeling at 69 for 4 by the 20th over. It was in the 3rd over that the first Indian wicket went down when Murali Vijay pushed at a short ball early on the slow pitch and the outcome was Dale Steyn taking a one handed reflex catch to his right off his own bowling. India then got a brief partnership going between the technically sound Virat Kohli and the lucky Rohit Sharma who was asked to open the innings. The pair put up 52 runs for the second wicket before Kohli (28 from 41 balls with 5 fours) was forced to nick Morne Morkel’s away going seamer to the keeper in the 15th over.
Morkel provided another blow when he got the ball to nip back and keep low to clean up the stumps of Rohit Sharma (23 from 45 balls) in the 17th over. Skipper MS Dhoni (5) lost his wicket next in the 20th over when he nicked a cut shot off Botha which was caught in the second attempt by AB de Villiers. A few overs later, India slipped to 93 for 5 when Yuvraj Singh (16) got trapped lbw by a Duminy drifter around middle.
India needed as many as 128 more runs when Yusuf Pathan joined Suresh Raina and his only way of getting to the target was through the big shots. Pathan delivered exactly that as he launched into Johan Botha to muscle him for three towering sixes in the 30th over and with that the pressure on India was vanishing quickly. Suresh Raina contributed in cutting down the target from his end with the help of some useful boundaries. Just when India seemed to be cruising along, Raina took the risk of playing a big shot by making room to Morne Morkel but only to edge him behind in the 37th over. Raina fell for 37 from 47 balls but having put up a potentially match-winning partnership of 75 runs with Pathan for the 6th wicket.
As long as Pathan was there in the middle, SA realized that they were out of contest and it was against run of play that they got this big wicket in the 40th over with India needing 39 more to win. Yusuf Pathan got caught brilliantly by a back pedaling Morne Morkel at the thirdman boundary off a flashy upper cut to a Steyn delivery. Pathan by then scored 59 from 50 balls with 6 fours and 3 sixes and also proved to his critics that he could handle the short balls in his own way. India was now facing a possible defeat at 182 for 7 but the experience of Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan was priceless! And the duo delivered under pressure with a crucial stand of 26 runs for the 7th wicket which was a mix of pure luck plus some sensible shots for runs. In the 46th over with 13 more to get, Zaheer Khan (14 from 25 balls) provided a window for SA to sneak in when he smashed Tsotsobe straight into the hands of Smith at mid off.
India could have lost the match so easily as Nehra and Munaf are not known for their survival skills with the bat. Luckily for India, Harbhajan Singh kept his cool and he unleashed a couple of sixes out of nowhere to seal the deal. Harbhajan remained undefeated on 23 from 25 balls with two match winning sixes – first off Parnel in the 45th over and then off Morkel in the 47th over. The match was over in the 49th over when Ashish Nehra confidently lifted Botha over the top of mid on for a boundary. Morne Morkel’s heroics of 10-0-28-3 went in vain as India sneaked in a narrow win. Yusuf Pathan was rewarded with the Man of the Match award.