South Africa v/s India
Johannesburg, 1st ODI
Result: South Africa thrash India by 141 runs to go 1-0 up in the 3 match series.
By the end of the game, it felt inevitable. What were Indian fans thinking?
They could be forgiven for dreaming big though, especially after 6 consecutive ODI series wins- 3 of them coming overseas against decent opponents in trying conditions (CT and WI tri-series).
Most Indian teams are used to feeling that familiar thud back down to earth as soon as they cross their own shores. This team crossed quite a few shores in the last 365 days before feeling that sickening thud. Once again, it was the land they had never conquered. They had even conquered Australia Down Under in the 50-over format, but South Africa? India’s record: 5 wins in their 25 ODI games in South Africa; sad reading by any standards, much less a world no. 1 team looking to extend their hot streak.
Duncan, we have a problem
The pitch was always supposed to be good, but not good enough to warrant another Ricky Ponting-style World-Cup-Final hiding…at the same ground too. 359 runs were plundered once again. Hapless Indian bowlers- now a regular sight back home- were destroyed by batsmen hurting from a rare home series defeat. It was always supposed to be the Indian batsmen vs the South African bowlers. But here, the South African batsmen made their presence felt, and how. All their bowlers had to do was restrict the world’s best batting line-up to less than 360 in alien conditions. A piece of cake, though only for this bowling attack. Dale Steyn is finally conquering the limited over format in style. He has taken 18 wickets in his last 5 games at 11 a piece with an economy rate of less than 3.5. Basically, he has been unplayable. And he was, once again. He made Rohit Sharma look like the same guy that had been tortured back in the 5-match ODI series back in 2011 before the world cup- a performance that cost Rohit a place in the world cup squad. He played and missed so often, that the crowd finally cheered when he connected a meek defensive prod on Steyn’s 10th ball. Rohit took 16 deliveries to get off the mark, and looked like a pale shadow of the man that plundered the Aussie bowling attack only weeks ago on home soil. His feet stayed cemented in his crease, and he couldn’t read the swing or bounce. Unfortunately for him, he faced a bulk of Steyn at his best- unintentionally sheltering Dhawan from Steyn’s wrath.
Eyes wide shut
After De Kock’s raw skill, AB De Villiers’ assault, Duminy’s calculated butchery and Amla’s silken destruction- Steyn and Morkel made for a more pleasing sight than even Sachin or Lara at their pomp. They made the batsmen dance, weave, duck and grimace- almost shattering Kohli’s ribs in the process. This was trial by fire for India’s inexperienced young team, and boy, did they need a wake-up call. Their inexperience was often the reason for their recent success, because it gave rise to fearlessness and intent- irrespective of the circumstances. More experienced souls would have over stressed and over planned. This time though, they did need to plan a lot more, especially on a bouncy pitch against the world’s best bowling attack.
India did not look like the best ODI team in the world, and SA did not play like the no. 5 ODI team in the world. Roles were reversed, and India were made to look like West Indies did on their recent trip to India.
There was not much Dhoni could do in the end to avoid an embarrassing defeat- a telling sign of India’s most feared land, their final frontier. They have now won 5 of 26 ODIs played in South Africa, and it could be 5 of 28 by the end of this series- unless Kohli decides to do his bit again. Or unless the Indian bowlers decide to show up in the last 10 overs of an innings.