First with the bat and later with the ball, South Africa struck India between the ears. As a result, the outcome became a foregone conclusion in the rain-shortened 40-over-a-side ODI here on Thursday.
Eventually, if the nine-run margin of victory for South Africa was less than impressive, it was due to some late flourish by Sanju Samson (86 not out, 63b, 9x4, 3x6).
With 30 needed off the final over, bowled by Tabraiz Shamsi, Samson hit 19 of the 20 runs scored.
In fact, once half-centurions Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller pulled the Proteas out of the tightening Indian grip with an unconquered 139-run stand and Kagiso Rabada and Wayne Parnell delivered early blows, the host was always behind the eight ball.
Chasing 250, India lost openers Shubman Gill and skipper Shikhar Dhawan cheaply. They fell during a spell of 25 successive dot-balls that included three maiden overs — two from Rabada and one from Parnell.
In conditions that assisted swing and movement, the pace duo bowled a disciplined line and hit the right length.
While left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj kept the Indians on a tight leash, Ishan Kishan and debutant Ruturaj Gaikwad also disappointed as India was left reeling at 51 for four.
Shreyas Iyer’s 37-ball half-century, during a 67-run stand with Sanju Samson, followed.
Samson, after struggling early on in his innings, delighted the crowd with some big hits and raised 93 with Shardul Thakur (33). However, the asking rate kept rising. Earlier, the rain god relented in response to the prayers of those in the half-filled stadium.
The toss went Dhawan’s way and the bowlers nearly justified the decision to put South Africa in. After a 49-run opening stand, Shardul struck twice and Kuldeep Yadav once to put India on top. Ravi Bishnoi, the other debutant, trapped Quinton de Kock for 48, his maiden ODI wicket.
At this stage, India looked in control. But Miller and Klaasen slowly took charge. The former scored his 18th ODI half-century and the latter his fourth as they matched each other’s strike-rate and sent the ball past the boundary rope eight times each.
The duo benefited from India’s woes in the death overs as the fielders floundered and also dropped catches. Just when Miller and Klaasen were looking to step up a gear, Siraj and Gaikwad dropped catches off Avesh Khan, who conceded 28 of the 54 scored in the last five overs.
Bishnoi, despite his lone wicket, proved the most expensive (one for 69) while Kuldeep Yadav (one for 39) was impressive.