As the Indian team bus drove into the Wanderers Stadium complex, some fans exclaimed: “Salaam.”
Warmth towards the guests, however, was just restricted to those few seconds as once the first ODI of the three-match series commenced here on Thursday, M.S. Dhoni’s men were staring at a dreary night against a dominant South Africa backed by a vociferous crowd.
Chasing the host’s 358 for four, India finished with 217 as South Africa won by 141 runs to go 1-0 up in the series.
If India hoped for a rapid-fire start, all that it got was Rohit Sharma’s play-and-miss against a fiery Dale Steyn and Shikhar Dhawan’s few cover-drives before the southpaw fell to a Morne Morkel bouncer.
Soon Virat Kohli showed why he is in a different league as he pocketed a brace off Steyn and a few overs later, essayed two delectable drives — cover and straight — against the speedster.
Prior to those fours, Kohli enjoyed a reprieve as Morkel’s bouncer brushed his gloves but wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock failed to hold it on a day he largely owned with a century that shaped the South African innings.
However India’s master-of-chases committed early on the front foot and his hands pushed forward to one that seamed away from Ryan McLaren and before Kohli could withdraw his bat, the edge was taken.
Worse was to follow when McLaren cleaned up Yuvraj with a ball that brooked no resistance and David Miller’s athleticism caused Rohit’s run-out leaving India hobbling at 65 for four in 15.4 overs.
The pursuit subsequently turned futile as Suresh Raina scratched around a bit and Dhoni (65) resisted and clobbered a few while delaying the inevitable defeat.
In the evening, the match was all about 20-year-old de Kock’s second ODI ton (135, 121b, 18x4, 3x6) and the stellar supporting roles played by Hashim Amla (65), A.B. de Villiers (77) and J-P Duminy (59 n.o.).
On the match’s eve, de Kock had tweeted: “The pink pads are ready to rumble tomorrow.” The prophecy came true once the opener walked out with Amla after India opted to field.
Clad in pink at a venue awash in the same colour as part of an endeavour to raise awareness about breast cancer, the duo’s 152-run partnership was the perfect base for the rest to prosper.
The runs came at a steady clip once de Kock picked two fours off an errant Bhuvneshwar Kumar on either side of the wicket while Amla, with oriental blood coursing in his veins, twirled his wrists and forearms and dented the off-side.
Both de Kock and Amla had their close calls when their miscued shots off Mohit Sharma dipped early on diving fielders — Rohit and Mohammad Shami. And as if to celebrate his second life, Amla hoisted Bhuvneshwar’s delivery homing into his legs, over square-leg.
Pressed into service in the 10th over, Shami kept it tight but when R. Ashwin came in later, de Kock greeted him with deft cuts.
The first 10 overs yielded 53 and the next ten went for just 44. It was the long warm-up before de Kock, playing in his hometown, unsettled the spinners as he swept and scooped a few past short fine-leg.