Hosts lose by 18 runs as Quinton de Kock's masterly ton gives South Africans 2-1 lead
Rajkot: Riding on Quinton de Kock's masterly seventh hundred, South Africa defeated a little over-confident India by 18 runs in the third ODI in Rajkot yesterday to go 2-1 up in the five-match series. It was a dramatic surrender from a team that looked like being on the driver's seat for a good part of the contest.
Quinton de Kock plays one en route his 103 in Rajkot yesterday. Pic/AFP
Not a stiff target
A target of 271 was not that difficult for a side studded with some batting stalwarts on a wicket that has never been kind to bowlers. And three of these stars — Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Mahendra Singh Dhoni gave India hope until the wicket suddenly became lively towards the close of the Indian innings.
Kohli and Rohit laid a solid foundation after the early fall of Shikhar Dhawan (13). The two, batting with a judicious mix of caution and aggression, and matching each other stroke for stroke, put on 72 runs before Rohit departed for 65 when he looked set to play a customary big innings.
Dhoni promoted himself and showed yet again how he relishes batting higher in the order. He continued from where Rohit had left and kept the momentum going. Kohli too seemed to enjoy his captain's company as the two rebuilt the Indian innings.
Kohli and Dhoni looked set to carry India home without any hiccup but Morne Morkel seemed to have other ideas. The fast bowler simply dashed India's hopes with some really quick and exciting bowling when it was least expected. After Morkel removed Dhoni for 47 and broke the crucial 80-run third wicket stand, the Indian innings simply collapsed like a pack of cards. Suresh Raina was dismissed by spinner Imran Tahir for 0. Morkel then dealt two deadly blows, getting rid of Kohli for 77 and Ajinkya Rahane for 4.
Morkel takes 4-39
By the time the 50th over ended, India had made 252 for 6 with Harbhajan Singh and Axar Patel remaining unbeaten on 20 and 15 respectively. Morkel finished with dream figures of 10-1-39-4. Though not competent-looking initially, SA's 270 for 7 in 50 overs after winning the toss eventually proved massive one even on this placid pitch. If anything, the visitors made at least 30 runs less despite De Kock's masterly hundred.
Out-of-form David Miller was promoted to open the innings with De Kock in place of the struggling Hashim Amla. The ploy seemed to work as Miller and De Kock cut loose from the beginning, executing a wide range of shots all round the wicket. Miller seemed to be in his elements. However, just when the partnership was building to menacing proportions, offie Harbhajan had the 'Killer' Miller smartly caught by Ajinkya Rahane for 33.
Before South Africa could recover from the blow, leggie Amit Mishra struck and had Amla stumped for just five. The two quick wickets did not shake De Kock, who kept treating the speedsters and spinners with disdain on a pitch offering them little help. Faf du Plessis gave him good company, as the duo added 118 for the third wicket.
Plessis was cruising along merrily when medium-pacer Mohit Sharma consumed him for 60 with SA 205 in 38.5. India then had two major successes in AB de Villiers (4) and Jean-Paul Duminy (14), and however hard Farhaan Behardien (33 not out) tried to improve South Africa's score with some lusty blows, they could not go beyond 270.
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