PERTH: For India, it wasn’t the trampoline of a pitch or Lungi Ngidi‘s singular decimation of the top order, or even their use of spin, that would have rankled after South Africa’s five-wicket win, but some crucial errors in the field at important junctures.
In the final analysis, the biggest moment of the game came when Virat Kohli dropped Aiden Markram off Ashwin, on the fifth ball of the 12th over.
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In a small chase on a perilous batting surface, a wicket here and the match could have turned India’s way. Both bowler and fielder stared shell-shocked at each other for a few seconds, both knowing T20 is a game of probability and chance, before Ashwin raised his arms in exasperation and Kohli allowed himself a wry, embarrassed smile.
The moment passed but there were other costly lapses: Rohit Sharma missed an easy run out chance in the 13th over off Mohammed Shami, the captain’s under-arm effort going awry with all three stumps in view. With the match fast slipping away, another mix-up between Hardik Pandya and Kohli in the deep summed up India’s day.
Markram (52 off 41; 6×4, 1×6) finally went pulling another one in the 16th over, holing out to Suryakumar at deep midwicket off Pandya. By then, SA had taken the edge off the contest and were coasting in a chase of 134.
Markram’s 76-run fourth-wicket partnership with David Miller (56 not out; 46b, 4×4, 3×6) proved decisive in this low-scoring game as South Africa eventually got home with two balls remaining. The result had been a foregone conclusion at least a few balls before that.
Miller and Markram’s determined effort helped South Africa go top of the table in their group and avoid any pitfalls after their pacers garrotted the run flow of India’s premier batters. Their partnership also completely overshadowed a marvellous counter-attacking knock from Suryakumar Yadav (68 off 40; 6×4, 3×6) after Ngidi’s four-wicket blitz knocked the wind out of India’s sails.
Suryakumar rolled with the punches, thrust and parried and even delivered a few mighty blows of his own as the formidable SA pace battery, and the spitfire of a pitch, conspired to throw a lethal cocktail of bounce and pace at India.
It was probably the best knock of his T20 career, and certainly came in the most difficult of circumstances. All 360 degrees of wristy flair, insouciance and gum-chewing fearlessness, Suryakumar stood head and shoulders above the rest of his batting teammates after Rohit opted to bat first in the second match of the day on this pitch.
Only SKY’s brilliance stood between respectability and ignominy as Lungi Ngidi got big on one top-order batter after another, bagging four wickets to leave India reeling and dazed at 49/5 within 8.3 overs. Ngidi made good use of the heavy ball and the steep bounce to break India’s back before Suryakumar’s counter attacking flair ensured they scampered to a somewhat face-saving total.
India dropped Axar Patel and included Deepak Hooda, just the seventh time in all T20Is that they have gone in without a left-hander in the top seven, but it didn’t make much of difference in the final analysis.
T20 World Cup: South Africa beat India to go top in Group 2