Aakash Sivasubramaniam
06 Oct 2022 | 06:53 PM

South Africa outplay India in a capsulizing thriller

Heinrich Klassen and David Miller’s partnership helps the Proteas win the first ODI

When the game was being reduced to 40 overs, there was this sense of unexpectedness around the game. Will it turn, will it seam or will there be swing? As it turned out, there was everything, it was a night where bowlers felt a lot relieved than the batters, who found timing pretty hard. At the Ekana Cricket Stadium, there was a contest, one that was for the most part of the day pretty well balanced. 

But ultimately, it was the Proteas who turned the heat, both with the bat and the ball to take home an impressive win. If anything, this ODI only made things clearer, things like Shardul Thakur is all but a certain in this 50-over setup, Sanju Samson is a definite start, irrespective of the format or how Shikhar Dhawan has just been in a struggling phase with the bat. 

Klaasen-Miller kill India’s hopes

When South Africa lost Janneman Malan, at 49/1 after 12.1 overs, it was a sticky phase in the innings. Batting on that surface in Lucknow was far away from easy, in fact, it maybe even was tougher than the conditions in Thiruvananthapuram. Both at 71/3 and 110/4, the Proteas were far away from posting a total that could be called challenging. 

And that tough task was in the hands of Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller. The ball was moving sharply, the turn was square, and the Indian bowlers were running riots. In such adverse conditions, Klaasen played calmly and Miller, with such composure. 

In phases 21-30 and 31-40, the South African pair scored 157 runs, in a partnership that reminiscent of the partnership between Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen earlier in the year. Combine that with India’s miserable fielding effort, the visitors ended with a total of 249/4 after 40 overs, well above the par total at the venue. 

While Klaasen ended with a 65-ball 74, Miller found himself on 75 off 63 balls as Ravi Bishnoi found life hard in the longer white-ball format, ending with figures of 1/69. 

Do we worry about India’s batting future?

India’s future batting lineup took the field in the first ODI against South Africa. Shubman Gill struggled and has shown vulnerability against the ball that seams pretty early on in the innings. Before we get to all of that, India fielded a line-up with six batters who are either designated openers or have opened over the last ten months in this year. 

So, how do they slot them? Just play as it comes? Ishan Kishan’s numbers in the 50-over format were not the most convincing of ones. But on Thursday (October 6), Kishan’s scratchy innings yet again points out the biggest catch-22 situation with him. He is perhaps one of the biggest talents in the country – a left-handed batter, a wicketkeeper – and someone who can take the game by the scruff of its neck.

Against South Africa in Lucknow though, neither Kishan nor Ruturaj Gaikwad really showed their A-game. Not just that, Kishan’s struggle against the tweakers only was in display for more eyes. Against the spinners, the left-hander scored just FIVE RUNS off 17 balls, averaging just 5 and a strike-rate of 29.41, a dot-ball percentage of 70.58%. 39 off 79 balls in between the two batters, do we really raise the question and worry about India’s batting future?

Keshav Maharaj really stomps his authority!

Hear me out, until one point, we all thought Keshav Maharaj was just a great option in the red-ball format, right? He’s proving everyone of us with that opinion wrong. On a night where his spin partner, Tabraiz Shamsi was going for bonkers, Maharaj was sprinkling some gold dust. While the series might not have a great context for India, it really is one for South Africa. Next year’s World Cup is in India and on conditions like today’s, they will have to play their best XI.

Maharaj walks into that XI, purely on his bowling now. An economy rate of 2.87, thirty dot-balls and a wicket, the left-arm spinner really threw the spanner in India’s work. More so, even his numbers across the white-ball formats – an average of 27.15 and economy of 7.18 – in the shortest format really has made him standout. 

Not to forget his batting, Maharaj really is stomping his authority in South African cricket. Shamsi’s form might be of concern for the Proteas but knowing that at the other end, there is a reliable option in Maharaj, South African management can definitely sleep in peace. 

Wait, can Kuldeep really make a comeback?

While it might be far-fetched at the moment, Kuldeep Yadav could seriously find himself in the running for the 2024 T20 World Cup in the West Indies. Since his comeback to the national team, the left-arm unorthodox spinner has been nothing short of revelation. In only his first over of the day, Kuldeep produced a scintillating piece of spin bowling. 

You know those kinds where mystery is in the air? Where the batters are dancing around struggling to read him off his hand? That is what Kuldeep has been since his return. Aiden Markram faced four deliveries leading to his dismissal against the left-arm spinner and in none of those deliveries did he look convincing. 

To add salt to the wound, Markram was undone by a peach of a delivery from Kuldeep, with the ball pitching outside the off-stump to spin viciously back and knock the leg-stump. It was identical to the delivery he had bowled against Pakistan in the 2019 ODI World Cup. In his last five international appearances, Kuldeep has picked up seven wickets, looked more and more threatening as the games passed by. 

On surfaces that have aided spinners in the recent time (West Indies), Kuldeep can really claim his chances of featuring in the near future, maybe even be part of India’s 2023 ODI World Cup plans. 

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