Centurion: Quinton de Kock notched up his third successive hundred while his captain A B de Villiers also struck a century as South Africa wriggled out of a tight spot to post an imposing 301 for 8 in their third and final cricket one-dayer against India here on wednesday.
Opening batsman de Kock smashed nine fours and two sixes for his 101 off 120 balls to become the third South African and fifth overall batsman to hit a century in three successive innings to take the home side past 300 after being reduced to 28 for three in the eighth over at Super Sport Park.
Skipper de Villiers, who hit his 16th ODI century, shared a crucial 171-run partnership for the fourth wicket with de Kock to repair the South African innings. De Villiers struck six fours and five sixes in his 101-ball innings.
For India, pacer Ishant Sharma finished with 4/40 from his 10 overs, picking up his 100th ODI wicket in doing so.
On a pitch that seemed to be the flattest of the three ODIs on display so far, de Villiers had no qualms about batting first after winning the toss. Since they had already stitched up the series, the hosts rested Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, bringing in Henry Davids, Wayne Parnell and Imran Tahir.
India made the lone change, with the fit-again Yuvraj Singh taking Ajinkya Rahane`s spot.
The Proteas` in-form openers Hashim Amla and de Kock began in the same fashion as they did in the previous two matches, with the opening overs of Ishant and Umesh Yadav resulting in a string of boundaries. However, there was a difference this time. India would strike early, and not just once.
First up, Mohammad Shami was successful in breaking the opening stand cheaply. The first wicket yielded only 22 runs, as Amla was out pulling, caught by Yuvraj. He followed up his century in Durban with only 13 runs. Ishant then got a double break-through for his team, dismissing both Davids (1) and JP Duminy (1) in the eighth over. For the first time in three matches, the hosts were feeling the heat after being reduced to 28 for three.
South Africa, however, did not worry too much. After all, de Kock was still batting when he was joined by de Villiers. And together, the in-form batsmen set the Indian bowlers on a leather hunt. Their progress was slow as they set about rebuilding the innings. South Africa's fifty came only in the 13th over.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni rotated his medium pacers, giving extended spells to Umesh Yadav and Shami, hoping to break this partnership as well.
Yadav almost got de Kock in the 17th over, but Ajinkya Rahane put him down at square leg. He was on 37 at that time.
Meanwhile, no more wickets came and Dhoni turned to spin from both ends, with R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja coming on to bowl in the 18th and 19th over respectively. The duo bowled in tandem for 12 overs, during which the Indian fielders dropped two more catches -- one each off de Kock and de Villiers.
De Kock was let off this time by Yuvraj Singh who was running backwards from mid-on. It was a tough chance, off Ashwin, and he managed to get his hands to it, but spilled it at the last moment. The batsman was on 43 then, and carried on to complete his fifty off 71 balls, in the 23rd over, hitting six boundaries.
In doing so, he became only the third player ever to score 300-plus runs in a three-match ODI series, after New Zealand's Martin Guptill (versus England in 2013) and Zimbabwe's Brendan Taylor (versus New Zealand in 2011).
The 100-run partnership between de Kock and de Villiers came up in the 29th over, and finally Dhoni made a change, going to his part-time bowlers.
In the 30th over, he brought on Suresh Raina and it almost worked, as de Villers nicked one only for the captain to drop a sharp half-chance.
At the other end Virat Kohli came on to bowl and de Kock welcomed him with two massive sixes in successive overs. The run-rate began climbing as South Africa crossed the 150-mark in the 33rd over.
De Villiers brought up his fifty in the 35th over and another over later, de Kock nudged Shami to square leg for a single to score his third successive century in three games this series, and his fourth in ODIs overall. He used up 116 deliveries for his knock, accelerating to score the second half, hitting nine fours and two sixes overall.
He became only the fifth batsman ever to score three successive hundreds in ODI cricket after Pakistanis Zaheer Abbas (Dec 1982-Jan 1983) and Saeed Anwar (1993) and fellow South Africans Herschelle Gibbs (2002) and de Villiers (2010). He also became the first batsman ever to score all three hundreds in the same series.
His departure signalled the death overs for the hosts and new batsman David Miller along with de Villiers put the Indian bowling to the sword. They put up 53 runs for the fifth wicket in only 28 balls.
De Villiers was especially rough, scoring his second fifty in just 25 balls, as he brought up his 16th ODI hundred with a dab to fine leg in the 42nd over. He was eventually out for 109, LBW to Yadav in the 44th over.
Ryan McLaren (6) tried to force the pace and only ended up holing out to deep midwicket, becoming Ishant's 100th dismissal in 70 ODIs.
Miller hung around, smacking his sixth ODI fifty, finishing unbeaten on 56 runs off 34 balls and helped South Africa reach 301/8 in their 50 overs.
Shami had a successful final over, scalping Wayne Parnell (9) and Vernon Philander (0), bowling out his 10 overs for 3/69. Yadav got 1/57 from nine. The spinners were only mildly inexpensive in comparison.
Ashwin gave away 63 runs from his nine overs, with Jadeja going for 32 runs from his six. Raina gave away 16 runs, and Kohli went for 22, both bowling three overs each. None of the four slow bowlers took a wicket.