Johannesburg: India came up with an amazing performance to win the cliffhanger of a match by a run to tie the five match ODI series 1-1 on a thrilling day ruled by bowlers. Fans at Johannesburg were treated to some quality pace bowling by both the teams while batsmen failed to flatter and the result was a thriller game for a fully packed Wanderers Stadium.
In the first half of the match, a below ordinary batting performance in front of a contrasting home-team bowling effort saw India wrap-up at a paltry 190 runs, almost three overs short of the stipulated quota. The bowlers however, displayed character in trying to defend the low total and managed to peg the game back at the death.
After the small target was set for the South Africans to chase, it was easy cruising for the home team but it was made tough by the subsequent fall of wickets despite a good partnership between Smith and Ingram in the middle portion of their run-chase.
Munaf Patel came good in his second spell as he clean bowled the mainstay of Proteas batting, their captain Graeme Smith, at a score of 77 runs. His was the fifth wicket to fall but he ensured before his departure, the ticking of the SA scorecard to 39 runs within victory distance.
Things got interesting for the visitors as the sixth wicket was claimed by pacer Zaheer Khan and he soon followed it up with the LBW of Johan Botha, exposing the tail-order. Yuvraj Singh was quick to run out Dale Steyn, as the penultimate man came to the crease with 14 more runs between victory and defeat.
Things got nail biting by the end of the match as Morne Morkel was the ninth wicket to fall with three more runs required for a win. It was a magical day unfolding for India as Munaf claimed the last wicket with just two more runs required by the home team.
India managed to send tremors down the South African dressing room with a handful of wickets in their defense. The third man to fall was the dangerous AB de Villiers who was claimed by Ashish Nehra for a score of eight runs.
South Africa lost their fourth wicket as JP Duminy was caught off Rohit Sharma’s spin for a score of thirteen runs. Just before the two, the second wicket had fallen in Colin Ingram’s (25) LBW to Harbhajan Singh.
South Africa had lost opener Hashim Amla early-on in the run-chase as Munaf Patel got him to edge one into the gloves of MS Dhoni at a score of four runs.
In the first innings, wickets tumbled aplenty at Johannesburg as South Africa came up with a formidable challenge for India, drying up the runs and making it tougher with wickets every now and then.
Lonwabo Tsotsobe towered above the Indian batsmen, claiming four wickets in his quota of ten overs, giving just 22 runs in the process. He orchestrated the South African dominance over the visitors and the rest of the bowlers were equally lethal, making sure that no partnerships built-up.
It was a bad day at office for the Indian batsmen and Suresh Raina could do nothing good for his case either as he was out at a score of eleven runs as the death overs had started and his fall just before Dhoni’s, resulted in two fresh feet on the crease with chances of scoring disappearing fast. South African think tank had got things right in the first innings as all the power plays yielded rich rewards for the on-cue bowlers, chocking the Indian outfit for runs on a fast outfield.
Yuvraj Singh was the gritty batsman of the Indian innings with his 45th ODI half century that helped raise the run-total average past four after placid scoring was observed for most part of the Indian innings. However, a momentary lapse of concentration just after the feat saw him walking back to the pavilion at 53 with the re-introduction of Tsotsobe for his second spell.
The duo of Yuvraj and Dhoni had gone into damage control mode after excruciating loss of wickets amid low scoring set the visitors on back foot.
It was due to the perfect use of conditions by the home team that thunder struck heavily on the Indian dressing room as the visitors lost top order cheaply, the third wicket being of Sachin Tendulkar (24) who dragged the ball back to his stumps.
Just before the Master’s departure, Virat Kohli had lost his wicket as a result of a terrible mix-up, getting run out to a direct throw at the stumps from David Miller at a score of 22 runs.
This was a most unwanted situation as the efforts of Kohli and Sachin got some runs on the board after a very slow start, taking the total past 50-runs with some strokes coming into play. The partnership between the two was worth 42 runs, and was broken at a crucial juncture.
Prior to this, Tsotsobe had drawn first blood, getting the wicket of Murali Vijay (16) as the batsman lobbed it into the hands of Morne Morkel. Indian openers threw caution to the wind and started off slowly against the Proteas pace battery. The runs had not come easily and the pressure built up because of that eventually got the better of Vijay.
Dhoni had called the right side of the coin and decided to bat first in the second ODI of the five-match series at New Wanderers Stadium hoping to put over 280 runs for the South Africans to chase, but the following performance by the batsmen could not compliment the intention.
The bowlers shined bright for India just at the right moment, and with a 1-1 result at the end of this match, it would be interesting to see how the two teams take the challenge at Cape Town.