Pacers Arshdeep Singh bowled a dream first spell and found an ally in equally menacing Avesh Khan as a second-string Indian team completely annihilated South Africa by eight wickets in the opening ODI in Johannesburg on December 17.
India now lead the three-match series 1-0.
Having gone into the match without a single wicket in his previous three ODI appearances, Arshdeep more than made up for it with his maiden five-wicket haul as South Africa were all-out for 116 in 27.3 overs. The target was surpassed in only 16.4 overs.
Playing their first 50-over game post the World Cup final, it seemed that Arshdeep (5/37 in 10 overs) and Avesh (4/27 in 8 overs) had picked up a cue from their seniors Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah as a quality Proteas batting line-up was made to look like novices on a track that offered a lot of help due to underlying moisture.
In reply, debutant B Sai Sudharshan (55 not out off 43 balls) showed during his stay at the wicket why he is rated so highly. He made the chase look like a cakewalk.
The sinewy southpaw looked elegant and upright while driving on the up and looked strong off the back-foot, while pulling the short ball. Against spinners, he put a big stride forward, which is hallmark of a good player. The on-drive off Tabraiz Shamsi was a treat for the eyes.
Sai had seasoned Shreyas Iyer (52 off 45 balls) for company, who looked in fine touch, something that augurs well for India, ahead of the upcoming Test series.
However, the story of the day was how Indian pacers rattled South Africa with the ball jagging around for the first hour and a half which spelt doom for the home side.
Arshdeep would certainly feel good having drawn a lot of flak for his inconsistency in the shortest format.
In their last encounter at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, South Africa were bowled out for 83 under lights on a slow deck but never would have Aiden Markram thought that he and his men would be bullied at the ‘Bull Ring’ which has been a safe haven for them in white ball cricket. Only three players who played the World Cup final -- skipper KL Rahul, wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav and middle-order batter Shreyas Iyer -- are a part of this current playing eleven, and India’s back-up pacers gave a good account of themselves.
The two Indian pacers pitched it up and ensured that most of the South African batters stayed rooted to the crease. In fact, both were on hat-tricks with dismissals off successive deliveries.
Arshdeep would get more credit as he blew away the top-order within the first Powerplay with four wickets and then left it to Avesh, who bowled fast and full, hurrying the batters for pace.
In between, Avesh would slip in the occasional short ball for the tailenders, who were in two minds whether to go on the front-foot or back-foot.
It started with Reeza Hendricks (0), who dragged a delivery that was angled across the right-hander back onto the stumps and the dangerous Rassie van de Dussen (0) must have expected an away-going one but got one that darted back from middle-stump.
Tony de Zorzi (28 off 22 balls) chanced his arms and Mukesh Kumar (0/46 in 7 overs), who had an off-day, went for a few before Arshdeep showed his variation by digging one short and the ball ballooned for skipper Rahul to complete an easy catch.
However, the wicket that completely broke the home team’s back was Heinrich Klaasen’s (6) dismissal, which would have even made the great Wasim Akram proud.
Arshdeep bowled one slightly back of length but flicked his wrists in a manner that it turned into a vicious in-dipper which clipped the leg stump bail, leaving the right-hander in complete daze.
The end of Powerplay didn’t end Proteas’ woes as skipper Markram played on, completely beaten for pace. David Miller (2) also fell prey to relentless pressure to a delivery pitched on drivable length while Wiaan Mulder and Keshav Maharaj found the speed of deliveries too hot to handle.
It was Andile Phehlukwayo, whose 33 coming in at No. 8, took the home team past the 100-run mark before Arshdeep, in his second spell, completed his coveted five-for.
South Africa Innings: Reeza Hendricks b Arshdeep Singh 0 Tony de Zorzi c Rahul b Arshdeep Singh 28 Rassie van der Dussen lbw b Arshdeep Singh 0 Aiden Markram b Avesh Khan 12 Heinrich Klaasen b Arshdeep Singh 6 David Miller c Rahul b Avesh Khan 2 Wiaan Mulder lbw b Avesh Khan 0 Andile Phehlukwayo lbw b Arshdeep Singh 33 Keshav Maharaj c Ruturaj Gaikwad b Avesh Khan 4 Nandre Burger b Kuldeep Yadav 7 Tabraiz Shamsi not out 11 Extras: (B-1, LB-2, W-10)
Total: (For 10 wkts, 27.3 Overs) 116
Fall of Wickets: 1-3, 2-3, 3-42, 4-52, 5-52, 6-52, 7-58, 8-73, 9-101, 10-116.
Indian bowling: Mukesh Kumar 7-0-46-0, Arshdeep Singh 10-0-37-5, Avesh Khan 8-3-27-4, Kuldeep Yadav 2.3-0-3-1.
India Innings: Ruturaj Gaikwad lbw b Wiaan Mulder 5 Sai Sudharsan not out 55 Shreyas Iyer c Miller b Phehlukwayo 52 Tilak Varma not out 1 Extras: (W-3, NB-1) 4
Total: (2 wkts, 16.4 Overs) 117
Fall of Wickets: 1-23, 2-111.
South Africa bowling: Nandre Burger 5.4-1-35-0, Wiaan Mulder 4-0-26-1, Keshav Maharaj 3-0-19-0, Tabraiz Shamsi 3-0-22-0, Andile Phehlukwayo 1-0-15-1