India's designs of winning its first ODI series in South Africa stayed unfulfilled after it was outclassed in the fifth ODI at the SuperSport Park here on Sunday.
Despite a scarcely believable exhibition of controlled power-hitting from Yusuf Pathan (105, 70b, 8x4, 8x6), India lost the game by 33 runs (Duckworth-Lewis method) and conceded the series 2-3. It had led 2-1 at one stage.
Hashim Amla, through baroque stroke-play and efficient accumulation, had earlier made an unbeaten 116. His partnerships with Morne van Wyk and J.P. Duminy ensured that South Africa, which lost six for 19 in a mad rush after a rain break, was on the right side of the Duckworth-Lewis method when the target was readjusted.
India's chase of 268 in 46 overs was again crippled early. Parthiv Patel played boldly, cutting and flicking particularly well in his 38. But he had no support.
Once Morne Morkel took out India's best batsman in the series, Virat Kohli, having him caught behind off a delivery in the corridor of uncertainty, South Africa knew it had the advantage.
With Rohit Sharma, M.S. Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh failing to pass double-figures and Suresh Raina managing it only just, India was struggling to save face.
South Africa's bowlers, particularly Morkel in his first four overs, did well, but the batsmen collaborated freely in their dismissals, abandoning cricket reason in the pursuit of ‘glory strokes'.
Parthiv was unfortunate — replays didn't clearly prove that Francois du Plessis had completed a clean catch. But none of the other top-order batsmen can cite mitigating circumstances in their defence.
Yusuf decided he may as well go down swinging. He struck a clean, breathtaking ball. On one occasion, he reverse-swept Robin Peterson for six despite losing his footing. He threatened to take India to an improbable victory, as he began to clear the boundary at will with Zaheer Khan egging him on.
But Morkel returned to conquer Yusuf for his fourth wicket, ensuring South Africa completed the job its batsmen had begun
The South African innings was provided its platform by Amla and van Wyk, who put on 97 in 19.5 overs for the second wicket. After Zaheer had Graeme Smith caught at second slip, Amla and van Wyk fulfilled the roles of gatherer and attacker respectively to combat India's spin-heavy bowling unit.
Van Wyk's 56 was a vibrant knock: from a thrillingly high back-lift against the seamers (he moderated it when playing spin), the 31-year-old brought his bat down like a guillotine, cutting the ball ferociously. Munaf Patel put the odd in-nipper through van Wyk, but he was treated unceremoniously, scooped to fine-leg and slapped over point.
Piyush Chawla, selected instead of Ashish Nehra, suffered as well, although, to his credit, he deceived the batsman with his googly.
India needed a moment of inspiration, and Yuvraj supplied just that with a brilliant return catch, instinctive and left-handed, that ended van Wyk's stay. Yuvraj also spun one past A.B. de Villiers to have him stumped.
Three for 129 nearly became four for 129. Although Yuvraj had J.P. Duminy in front of the stumps, he couldn't win the ‘lbw' decision.
Amla, who had collected four fours off the seamers, didn't hit his next boundary till the 31st over. On 70, he was dropped by substitute fielder R. Ashwin off Rohit Sharma. But largely Amla played the percentages, something Duminy did adeptly as well.
Together they batted South Africa into a place of power. But the rain interruption — South Africa was on 226 for three in 42 overs — broke the innings' momentum and triggered desperation.
It didn't prove costly — although with Yusuf launching it to all parts that period will have haunted South Africa.
South Africa: G. Smith c Yusuf b Zaheer 7 (11b, 1x4), H. Amla (not out) 116 (132b, 9x4), M. van Wyk c & b Yuvraj 56 (63b, 8x4), A.B. de Villiers st. Dhoni b Yuvraj 11 (12b, 1x4), J.P. Duminy c & b Munaf 35 (44b, 1x4), F. du Plessis b Munaf 8 (6b, 1x4), J. Botha c Dhoni b Munaf 2 (2b), R. Peterson b Zaheer 4 (2b, 1x4), D. Steyn (run out) 0 (1b), M. Morkel (run out) 0 (2b), L. Tsotsobe (not out) 0 (1b); Extras (lb-6, w-5): 11. Total (for nine wickets in 46 overs): 250.
Fall of wickets: 1-16 (Smith), 2-113 (van Wyk), 3-129 (de Villiers), 4-231 (Duminy), 5-242 (du Plessis), 6-244 (Botha), 7-250 (Peterson), 8-250 (Steyn), 9-250 (Morkel).
India bowling: Zaheer 9-1-47-2, Munaf 8-0-50-3, Chawla 7-0-32-0, Harbhajan 8-0-33-0, Yusuf 2-0-10-0, Yuvraj 8-0-45-2, Rohit 2-0-14-0, Raina 2-0-13-0.
Power Plays: One (1-10): 53/1; Bowling (11-15): 27/0; Batting (42-44): 20/1.
India: Parthiv c du Plessis b Morkel 38 (34b, 6x4), Rohit Sharma b Tsotsobe 5 (8b, 1x4), V. Kohli c de Villiers b Morkel 2 (6b), M.S. Dhoni c Smith b Morkel 5 (10b, 1x4), Yuvraj c Duminy b Steyn 8 (14b, 2x4), S. Raina c Morkel b Steyn 11 (8b, 2x4), Yusuf c du Plessis b Morkel 105 (70b, 8x4, 8x6), Harbhajan c Duminy b Botha 13 (16b, 1x6), P. Chawla b Peterson 8 (11b, 1x4), Zaheer c Morkel b Tsotsobe 24 (58b, 3x4), Munaf (not out) 4 (9b); Extras (lb-2, nb-2, w-7): 11. Total (in 40.2 overs): 234.
Fall of wickets: 1-21 (Rohit), 2-31 (Kohli), 3-45 (Dhoni), 4-60 (Parthiv), 5- 60 (Yuvraj), 6-74 (Raina), 7-98 (Harbhajan), 8-119 (Chawla), 9-219 (Yusuf).
South Africa bowling: Steyn 9-1-32-2, Tsotsobe 7.2-0-57-2, Morkel 8-0-52-4, Botha 8-0-33-1, Peterson 7-0-45-1, du Plessis 1-0-13-0.
Power Plays: One (1-9): 49/3; Bowling (10-14): 25/3; Batting (35-38): 34/1.
Keywords: India-South Africa series