Sai Sudharsan shines on debut
The 22-year-old from Tamil Nadu had a lot of things going in his favour on his international debut. After South Africa were bundled out for just 116 in 27.3 overs, Sudharsan had no pressure when he walked out to bat in the second innings.
Moreover, he should have been out in the first over but South Africa didn’t review a plumb LBW call. He was also dropped after he completed his fifty, howbeit, Sudharsan played some delightful shots between those two missed opportunities.
The left-hander opened his account with a gorgeous cover drive off Nandre Burger and followed it up with another one through the point region. Sudharsan played shots all around the ground and ended with nine boundaries, scoring 55* off 43 deliveries. He became the fourth Indian opener to register a 50-plus score on ODI debut. He scored at a strike rate of 127.9, which is the second-best for an opener on ODI debut (50-plus runs).
He hasn’t played a lot of domestic cricket but one could easily understand why he has been fast-tracked into the ODI set-up. The young batter averages 60.42 in 24 List A innings and has a strike rate of close to 100, with six centuries and four fifties. We all know what he did in the last IPL final against Chennai Super Kings.
The only problem for Sudharsan is that there are too many openers going around the circuit. Shubman Gill isn’t going anywhere, while Yashasvi Jaiswal and Ruturaj Gaikwad are also ahead in the pecking order. So all Sudharsan can do is keep performing in whatever chances he gets and leave the rest in the hands of the selectors.
Avesh in middle overs could be a thing
Arshdeep set the platform, however, Avesh Khan too played his role to perfection. A pacer who can bowl hard lengths in the middle overs has become a thing in ODIs and India could benefit from having someone like Avesh in their set-up. Though he will have tough competition from Prasidh Krishna in the future.
The right-arm fast bowler came into the attack when South Africa had already lost three wickets, which became four when he came in for his second over. The Johannesburg wicket was two-paced and Avesh made full use of it. He registered his best ODI figures, finishing with 4/27 in eight overs, including three maidens.
South African skipper Aiden Markram was Avesh’s first victim. The 29-year-old dragged one back onto the stumps before Wiaan Mulder was undone by an unplayable away-swinger. David Miller threw his wicket away, while Keshav Maharaj also fell prey to Avesh’s back-of-a-length delivery, which is his natural length.
Avesh bowled more than 70 percent of his deliveries either on length or short and this is exactly what India need from their third seamer. Amongst Indian seamers, Shardul Thakur has taken the most number of wickets (31 @ 24.2) in the middle overs, while Mohammed Shami’s record (21 wickets @ 14.3) is also as good as they come.
However, one of them isn’t consistent and the other is already 33 and won’t be around for too long. Hardik Pandya is someone else who is good at this role but you never know about his fitness. This gives Avesh an opportunity to build a resume for this particular role.
Arshdeep was the real star
The aforementioned two were good, but it was Arshdeep who stole all the limelight. The left-arm seamer wreaked havoc with the new ball and killed the game in the powerplay. Arshdeep took four wickets in the first 10 overs and eventually ended with figures of 5/37.
There was enough help on offer at the New Wanderers Stadium, and the Proteas batters had no idea what hit them after Aiden Markram decided to bat first. Arshdeep dismissed Reeza Hendricks, Tony de Zorzi, Rassie van der Dussen and Heinrich Klaasen and had South Africa reeling at 52/4 by the end of 10 overs.
The left-armer moved the ball both ways and made everyone look clueless. Arshdeep became the fourth Indian bowler to take four or more wickets in the first 10 overs. Mohammed Siraj has done it twice, with Jasprit Bumrah and Javagal Srinath being the other two.
Arshdeep had South Africa on the back foot in his very first over, dismissing Hendricks and van der Dussen off successive deliveries. De Zorzi (22-ball 28) was the only Proteas batter who looked good in the middle and played some aggressive shots, especially off full-length deliveries. Arshdeep noticed that and got his wicket soon with a short delivery.
The hosts desperately needed a partnership, and the onus was on Klaasen to bail them out, but Arshdeep had none of that. There was a five-wicket haul on offer, and Arshdeep finished the job in his final over, pinning Andile Phehlukwayo right in front of the stumps. He became the first Indian left-arm pacer to claim a five-for in ODIs in 12 years, following Irfan Pathan's footsteps.
After not taking a single wicket in his first three games, Arshdeep surely left a mark in his fourth ODI. This performance could very well make him a regular member of the ODI setup.
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