An unbeaten 79 by skipper Quinton de Kock helped South Africa romp home to a nine-wicket victory over India in the third T20 to level the series one all. India had won in Mohali by seven wickets earlier. Chasing a below-par 134 for 9, the South Africans, much like the Indians in the previous match, chased down the target without much ado in 16.5 overs.
De Kock, who was with the Royal Challengers Bangalore until last season, made ample use of his familiarity of the conditions to stay untroubled by the Indian bowling attack. There was no extravagance or needless aggression in his batting. He shared a 76-run opening stand with Reeza Hendricks (28) before finishing with finesse with Temba Bavuma (27 not out) for company.
Earlier, with an eye on a series win, the home side began well but it didn’t take them long to lose fizz and the plot to end their quota of overs with 134, of which the bowling side contributed 15 extras. South Africa, decided to open the attack with left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin (2-19), who made his T20 debut in Mohali. Shikhar Dhawan (36) pulled the first ball to the fence to set the tone, but the 24-year-old kept it tight thereafter. India’s big over was to follow with Kagiso Rabada (3-39) spraying the ball all over the pitch and conceding 17 runs including seven wides.
Beuran Hendricks (2-14) made his 11th T20 international appearance in five years count as an unsure Rohit Sharma edged him to Reeza Hendricks at first slip. The partnership between Dhawan and Kohli came with a lot of promises, especially with Dhawan in an entertaining mood. He danced down the wicket twice in a row to send spinner Tabraiz Shamsi’s deliveries beyond the ropes. The 41-run second wicket stand with his captain ended when he mistimed a turning ball from Shamsi, lofted it and Bavuma came in from extra cover to hold on to the catch. Thereafter, a parade of the Indian players to the pavilion began with the hosts losing five wickets for the addition of a mere 35 runs. The runs, boundaries in particular, dried up and the fact that they went from 63 for 2 in the eighth over to end with 134.
On a wicket which had slowed down, a sluggish Kohli, who was dropped by Fortuin off his own bowling on three, made little use of the lifeline and instead was first of Rabada’s three wickets. Much was expected from the under-fire Rishbah Pant and the talented Shreyas Iyer but both made a mess of the opportunity they were presented with. There was hope from the Pandya brothers - Hardik and Krunal but that too did not materialise.
Kohli leads from front
In the second T20, Virat Kohli helped India ease past the 150 set by the South Africans with six wickets and an over to spare at Mohali. Kohli reasserted his reputation as the master of this white-ball game. The India captain walked back to the pavilion with 72 against his name, unbeaten, untroubled and with a 1-0 lead with one game to go. Kohli's example of fearless and yet careful cricket was so infectious that Shikhar Dhawan caught it without any trouble. There were no frantic rundowns, just clean hitting clubbed with smart rotation of strike till David Miller’s moment of unworldly brilliance at the long-on boundary sent Dhawan back for a measured 31-ball 40. Shreyas Iyer followed it up with 14-ball 16 after Rishabh Pant threw away another opportunity off a slow long hop from left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin.
Temba Bavuma, fighting the label of a Test specialist, scored a 43-ball 49 to lay the platform for the designated power-hitters. South Africa set it up beautifully to go big but the ticking brain of India’s new crop of white-ball specialists averted a potential onslaught as the visitors finished with 149/5 after winning the toss.