Chayan Rastogi/Zeecric Bureau
Port Elizabeth: South Africa defeated India by 48 runs via Duckworth and Lewis method in the rain-hit fourth One-day international to level the series 2-2 at St George Park here.
Chasing 266 for a historic series win, India were 137 for six when rain first interfered. India were then set a revised target of 260 in 46 overs but soon after resuming play, rain again played the spoil sport forcing umpires to call-off the match with South Africa emerging winners.
Virat Kohli (87 not out) was unfortunate not to complete a well deserved century but with six top-order batsmen back in the hut, India never looked in the contention for an upset win.
Backing up an inspired batting display, South African bowlers bowled tight lengths to create pressure as India lost three quick wickets in the first 15 overs while chasing a stiff target of 266 runs.
India lost opener Rohit Sharma in the second over of the innings as the Mumbai batsman failed for the fourth time in the series as he threw away his wicket by playing an expensive cut shot of Lonwabo Tsotsobe straight into the hands of backward point.
Drafted into the side for injured Sachin Tendulkar, Parthiv Patel showed the glimpse of his potential as a batsman as the little man pulled Dale Steyn over mid-wicket and then flicked him over mid-off in his next over for lovely timed boundaries.
But with Tsotsobe bowling an annoying line to both the batsmen, he soon trapped Parthiv in front of the wickets to raise early alarm in Indian camp.
Yuvraj Singh then came to the crease and looked in good touch as he stroked a boundary and then hoisted spinner Johan Botha for a six, but the cunning spinner had the last smile as he dismissed the left-hander in the same over.
With top three wickets falling in first 15 overs, Kohli and Suresh Raina tried to build a partnership to steady Indian chase but just when it seemed that the duo will take India near to a historic win, Raina charged down the track and missed the ball as wicket-keeper AB De Villers dislodged the bails in a flash.
Kohli looked in sublime touch as he played his strokes in all parts of the ground but with skipper MS Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan failing to score, India lost momentum and never looked in contest much before the divine intervention.
Earlier, a defiant unbeaten 71-run knock from JP Duminy and crucial inputs from lower-middle order helped South Africa make a commendable recovery from mid-inning collapse as Proteas posted a highly competitive 265/7.
Duminy, who came in to bat with wickets of flurry on the other end, combined well with the lower-order batsmen and guided South Africa’s revival from 118/5 to put enough runs on the board to ensure that India will have to work hard to score their first ever series-win in this country.
Duminy shared two crucial partnerships with Johan Botha (44) and Robin Petersen (31) for sixth and seventh wicket respectively and batted till the last over to propel South Africa to a strong total.
Duminy’s determination reflected in his 72-ball knock as he hit just two boundaries and a six, which came in the 50th over, and ran hard to anchor the hosts innings.
Earlier after winning the toss and electing to bat, South African captain Smith started cautiously against his nemesis Zaheer Khan and attacked Munaf Patel on the other end to create early pressure on India.
The opening duo gradually accelerated the pace of scoring by hitting a few boundaries and added 57 runs for the first wicket but just when the pair was looking comfortable on the crease, a rush of blood saw Smith charging down to Ashish Nehra, who uppishly played the ball only to get smartly caught by Harbhajan Singh at mid-off.
Amla continued to play aggressively at the other end and notched up his half century with a boundary off the bowling of part-timer Yuvraj Singh.
The complexion of the game changed dramatically between 19th to 23rd over as the hosts lost four wickets- Amla (65), Morne van Wyk (15), AB de Villiers (3) and Faf du Plassis (1) – in four successive overs.
Van Wyk, who came in to bat with a reputation of big hitter, edged a spinning delivery from Yuvraj while Amla got himself run out when he ran for a non-existent double in short third-man region.
Yuvraj then dealt another vital blow when he got AB caught behind and with Du Plassis running himself out with headless-chicken running, South Africa looked in deep trouble. But with Duminy standing firm on one end and getting an able ally in Botha on the other, Proteas weaved a significant comeback in the match that is vital for South Africa to win to keep the five-match series alive.
Duminy and Botha dug in and steadied the rocking ship with their 70-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
Yuvraj broke the stand by having Botha stumped but Petersen supported Duminy well till the end of allotted 50 overs as the duo added another crucial 60 runs for the seventh wicket.
South Africa made two changes in the eleven that played in the last match with Morne van Wyk and Robin Petersen coming in for Colin Ingram and Wayne Parnell.
For India, wicket-keeper batsman Parthiv Patel comes in for out-of-form Murali Vijay.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Captain & wk), Parthiv Patel, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (Captain), Hashim Amla, Morne van Wyk, AB de Villiers (wk), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dale Steyn, Johan Botha, Robin Peterson, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.