It took everything going South Africa’s way for them to finally earn a victory. Be it a rain stoppage which improved the pitch, some brilliant catches while fielding that stuck, India dropping crucial catches, or the pacers being under-utilized despite conditions favoring them over spinners, it all factored in. Regardless, South Africa will take the victory after three losses.
The result leaves open the possibility of them drawing the series with India. Can they make it 3-2 to put some serious pressure on India for the final match, or will India seal the series?
Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur
Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Jean-Paul Duminy, Imran Tahir, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungisani Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khaya Zondo
Where the teams stand
Given the position India were in at the 40 over mark, 289 was never going to be a satisfactory total. They scored only 59 runs for the loss of three wickets in the last ten, having lost only 4 wickets in the first forty. This is criminally low given that they had Dhoni, Pandya, Iyer, and Kumar all still left to bat. Most teams manage somewhere between 90-100 in the last ten, and India were left lacking in their finish after Dhawan and Kohli gave them yet another brilliant start. Dhoni, who was out in the middle from the 37th over onward, scored only 42 from 43 balls. In fact, Dhawan was the only batsman in the batting order to have a strike rate of over 100, and not by much(103). This approach of slowly building your innings and then accelerating at the end to cover up the dearth of runs only works for a few select batsmen like Kohli and Dhoni, and even they couldn't do it in the last match. Less than 100 runs were scored by the six batsmen besides Dhawan and Kohli cumulatively. If rain plays a role in the next match as well, the batsmen need to learn how to score runs at a higher rate.
The failure of the Kuldeep-Chahal duo coinciding with their first loss of the ODI series was inevitable, but it could have been avoided. Kumar and Bumrah had economy rates lower than half of that achieved by the spinners, yet Kohli persisted with them due to their success in the series so far. One can see why Kohli hedged his bets on the spinners, but this is a good lesson in not counting out the pacers. The spinners’ combined economy rates were higher than that of the previous three matches combined, an absolute travesty for the Indians. However, the fifth match is unlikely to follow this pattern, and the duo must not forget the havoc they caused in the earlier matches. It will be interesting to see how the South African batsmen tackle the spinners now that they have played them well once, and how this affects India’s chances of winning. It might cause several problems for the visitors.
When Kohli and Dhawan were batting, another loss seemed on the cards. India would get to a big total and then their spinners would suppress any attempts at resistance. However, India stuttered to just 289 after batsmen like Pandya and Sharma fell to fantastic catches. And it was all uphill for South Africa since then. This still does not undermine their absolute failure to dismiss Kohli or Dhawan cheaply. They did do well to restrict India in the death overs, but they do not want to find themselves in that situation in every match. Ngidi was the pick of the bowlers in the last game. He is proving to be quite a find, with tons of potential and a bright future ahead of him. He and Rabada will be the most important cogs in the bowling attack for the fifth match. Rabada has been another bowler who has consistently dogged the Indian batsmen, but has not always been rewarded for it. If the Proteas are to restrict the Indians to a low score, these two will have to play a major role in it.
South Africa’s middle order showcased their hitting prowess to take their team to a much needed victory. The normal approach of settling themselves in and then bludgeoning the ball clearly was not working, and this seems like a much more naturally suited style of play for the Proteas. They struck the ball well the one time they tried to, and if they can do it in the next match as well, they might give themselves a good chance of winning another game. The only thing they lack is a big partnership to get them through 50 overs, something that has been India’s secret behind their success. Admittedly, this will be a tall task for them to fulfill, but that is what it will take to beat India, barring a miracle.
India win. South Africa have one win, but India have three. They are still favorites for the next match by virtue of the stability of their batting order, and the looming threat of their spinners.