India’s domination in limited overs cricket rolled on unabated as they cantered to a 28-run victory over South Africa in the first T20 International, grabbing a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. Shikhar Dhawan smashed his fourth Twenty20 half-century, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar claimed his maiden five-wicket haul in T20I to emerge as the architects of the victory at the Wanderers. Dhawan smashed a 39-ball 72 studded with 10 fours and two sixes to power India to a challenging 203 for 5 after South Africa won the toss and elected to field.
Bhuvneshwar then returned with figures of 4-0-24-5 to restrict South Africa to 175 for nine, despite opener Reeza Hendricks’s 50-ball 70-run innings. Chasing 204, South Africa made a quick start with opener Jon-Jon Smuts (14) and Hendricks putting on 29 off 17 balls as Jaydev Unadkat (1-33) was expensive in his opening spell. Smuts skied one off Bhuvneshwar and Dhawan took a well-judged catch at mid-on. Two overs later, Raina took a similarly well-judged catch running back from mid-wicket, this time sending back JP Duminy (3) off Bhuvneshwar as well as the hosts managed only 41/2 at the end of the powerplays.
Another skier, this time off David Miller’s bat (9) was also taken by Dhawan as Hardik Pandya (1-45) reduced South Africa to 48/3. With a mountain to climb, Hendricks was joined in the task by Ferhaan Behardien who smacked 39 off 27 balls. He put on 81 runs for the 4th wicket with Hendricks and brought some measure of stability to the South African innings. Hendricks reached his maiden T20 half-century off 37 balls. South Africa crossed 100 in the 12th over even as the asking rate touched 13 per over.
Yuzvendra Chahal (1-39) took some stick, but finally managed to dismiss Behardien and got the breakthrough India were looking. Heinrich Klaasen (16) threw his bat around as the Proteas crossed 150. But Bhuvneshwar returned to deal them a quick double blow, removing both Klaasen and Hendricks in the space of four balls.
Earlier, Dhawan was lucky early in his innings. In the fourth over, the opener had tried to play a flick shot off Junior Dala and the ball grazed his gloves. South Africa made an half-hearted appeal but it was called a wide by the umpire. On a batting beauty at the Wanderers, Rohit Sharma (21 off 9 balls) and Dhawan got off to a flying start as they put on 23 off only 11 balls. Sharma struck two sixes during his short stay as the ball was flying to all corners of the park.
Surprisingly, Suresh Raina (15) came out at no.3 and played a handy little cameo. India had hit 5 sixes before the fifth over was completed. Raina and Dhawan put on 26 runs off 13 balls, with the former smashing two fours and a six.
Virat Kohli (26 off 20 balls) too got an early life from Behardien as he grassed a simple catch. The India skipper and Dhawan marched on quickly as India were placed at 78/2 after the powerplays.
Dhawan continued smacking the ball and reached his half-century off 27 balls. It was the quickest T20 half-century by an Indian batsman against South Africa, going past Rohit’s 32-ball effort at Durban in 2011.
Brief Scores: India 203/5 in 20 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 72, Manish Pandey 29*; Junior Dala 2-47) beat South Africa 175/9 in 20 overs (Reeza Hendricks 70, Farhaan Behardien 39; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 5-24) by 28 runs
India wrap up series 5-1
Virat Kohli has broken the One-Day batting record while breaking South Africa’s confidence like no other batsman in recent history, as the six-match series concluded 5-1 in India's favour. Kohli crossed 9,500 one-day runs in India’s eight wicket-win to become the first batsman to score 500 runs in a bilateral series. In doing so, the India captain raced to another ODI century, his 35th, in a manner that was convincing, threatening, reassuring and soaked in absolute self-belief. To put this series between India and South Africa in a batting perspective, Kohli’s own self-belief is one that the hosts found simply too hot to handle. It wasn’t anymore about who was the bowler they deployed and what was the length they bowled to Kohli. The batsman controlled the innings and the match with an iron grip that South Africa just couldn’t shake off.