Kagiso Rabada added another chapter to his flourishing young career when he defended 11 runs in the final over against one of the finest finishers in the game to enable South Africa to beat India in the first of five ODIs by five runs at Kanpur on Sunday. It says a great deal about Rabada that his captain, AB De Villiers entrusted him to bowl two of the last four overs in a pressure cooker atmosphere. But the youngster was equal to the occasion and, after conceding 4 runs off his first three balls, dismissed MS Dhoni and Stuart Binny with successive deliveries to have a chance of his second career hat trick.
It left India with only tail-enders at the crease and he conceded only a single off his final delivery which India needed to hit for 6 to tie the match. If Rabada was the hero of the moment an equally key part of the match came in the 16th over when Imran Tahir took two wickets for four runs including Rohit Sharma for 150 (133 balls, 13 fours and six sixes). Up to that stage the Proteas looked out of the match following the partnership of 149 for the second wicket in 26.1 overs between Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane (60 off 42 balls, five fours).
It was twice the size of any other partnership in the match and left India needing a very comfortable 113 off 98 balls with eight wickets in hand. Sharma’s innings was the second highest for India against South Africa, being beaten only by Sachin Tendulkar’s double century at Gwalior in 2010, and one had to feel desperately sorry for the opening batsman who has made two centuries in his last three innings against South Africa but has been on the losing side on both occasions. If Rabada and Imran, together with Dale Steyn who left Rabada with a reasonable total to defend in the last over, were the stars of the pulsating finish, the victory owed a great deal to the top-order batting and specifically De Villiers, who achieved three landmarks with his century (104 not out off 73 balls, five fours and six sixes).
It was his 21st ODI century and thus became joint South African record holder together with Hashim Amla and Herschelle Gibbs; he completed 1 000 ODI runs against India; and joined Gary Kirsten in scoring four ODI centuries against India. The top order batting was very solid with successive partnerships of 45, 59 and 48 for the first three wickets before De Villiers and Farhaan Behardien took off with their unbroken 65 off 4.5 overs for the sixth wicket that enabled them to go past 300. Behardien’s contribution was 35 off 19 balls (five fours and a six) as he continued to confirm that he is one of the best finishers in the South African line-up.
India was hampered by the injury to their key bowler, Ravi Ashwin, who was only able to bowl 4.4 overs, leaving Dhoni to find extra overs from his fifth and sixth bowlers. De Villiers was named Man of the Match but the Proteas will be happy that a lot of players contributed to this team performance. The second ODI takes place at Indore on Wednesday (10:00 CAT).
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