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Imran Tahir and Kagiso Rabada, who bowled the final over, both claimed two wickets in their final overs to halt India’s charge to victory. South Africa posted the highest total at the ground, ending on 303 for five thanks to another scintillating century from captain and man-of-the-match AB de Villiers after winning the toss and electing to bat first.
India were cruising to victory with Rohit Sharma in total control but when Tahir (10-0-57-2) claimed Sharma’s wicket with the first ball of his final over, the wheels started to come off and despite MS Dhoni striking 31, India fell six runs short of their victory target, being restricted to 298 for seven.
Rabada (10-0-58-2) was given the difficult job of bowling the final over and needing to defend 12 runs but the young right-arm fast bowler kept his head and dismissed Dhoni, caught and bowled and then dismissed Bhuvneshwar Kumar (one) with the very next ball to end India’s hopes of pulling off their first victory of the South African tour.
South Africa’s innings was built around Faf du Plessis in the early stages as the T20 captain struck five boundaries and one six before being trapped lbw by Umesh Yadav (10-0-71-2) after sharing in a second wicket stand of 59 with Hashim Amla (37) off 89 balls.
Amla and Quinton de Kock (29) gave the visitors a steady start by adding 45 for the first wicket but the introduction of Ravichandran Ashwin (4.4-0-14-1) gave Dhoni the breakthrough he was looking for when De Kock edged Ashwin to Suresh Raina fielding at first slip.
But Ashwin, who was celebrating his 100th game for India, left the field shortly thereafter with a side-strain which has ruled him out of the rest of the series.
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After Amla’s dismissal, Du Plessis and his captain, De Villiers, added 48 runs for the third wicket before Du Plessis’ dismissal. David Miller (13) and JP Duminy (15) did not last long before Farhaan Behardien joined De Villiers to begin the fireworks show.
The pair added 65 unbeaten runs for the sixth wicket off only 29 deliveries with Behardien smashing five boundaries and one six to end unbeaten on 35 off 19 balls but the support he provided to his captain was vital.
De Villiers reached his fifty off 54 balls and then accelerated like a rocket, in reaching his 21st ODI century off 73 balls (becoming joint South African century record holder together with Hashim Amla and Herschelle Gibbs), smashing Yadav’s final ball of the innings for a six.
The South African captain smashed five boundaries and six maximums in his innings, most of which came after he crossed the 50-run mark. De Villiers also completed 1 000 ODI runs against India, and joined Gary Kirsten in scoring 4 ODI centuries against India.
“I thought Imran Tahir first of all changed the game and gave us a chance,” De Villiers, who was adjudged man-of-the-match, told reporters.
“And lot of credit to Dale and Kagiso. The youngster proved quite handful and he has got a bright future,” added the South Africa captain who set alight the stadium with his superb stroke-making.
DISAPPOINTED BY NARROW LOSS
In India’s reply, Shikhar Dhawan and Sharma gave the hosts a good start with an opening stand of 42 off 47 balls before Morne Morkel (10-0-51-1) trapped Dhawan in front. Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane (60), who was promoted above Virat Kohli (11), set about building the foundation for a famous Indian victory with a stand of 149 off 162 balls for the second wicket.
Sharma posted his third-highest ODI total, smashing 13 boundaries and six maximums before popping a simple catch back to Tahir for 150 off only 133 balls.
Sharma survived a run-out scare but kept his composure to record his third-highest ODI total before Tahir enter the frame with his final over. Dhoni and Sharma had kept the momentum going with a stand of 55 for the fourth wicket off only 38 balls but Tahir and Rabada ensured that South Africa remain unbeaten on their tour of India.
Dhoni said he was disappointed by the narrow loss which he blamed on his bowlers leaking runs in the final overs.
“The outcome was not great for us,” he said. “There were plenty that went wrong, but we showed character to get close. Frankly, we should have won this game.
“We missed the six overs from Ash (Ashwin) which was crucial because he is our best spinner. But the bowlers should have done a bit better.
“The partnership between Rohit and Rahane was superb. This was a fantastic innings from Rohit. It wasn’t an easy wicket to bat on but he made it look so easy.”
INDIA: S Dhawan, RG Sharma, V Kohli, AM Rahane, SK Raina, MS Dhoni (capt & wk), STR Binny, R Ashwin, A Mishra, B Kumar, UT Yadav
SOUTH AFRICA: HM Amla, Q de Kock (wk), F du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), DA Miller, JP Duminy, F Behardien, DW Steyn, K Rabada, M Morkel, Imran Tahir