Squaring off against the hosts, South Africa, in the first of the three T20Is, Team India dazzled to thump the Proteas by 28 runs. Carrying on their triumphant momentum, Virat Kohli and Co. persevered yet again to take 1-0 lead in the shortest format series. A good start from the Indian openers saw the visitors capitalizing on the advantage to convert it to a big total. The South African bowlers, however, did commendably to restrict what was looking like a 230 plus at one time. Shikhar Dhawan was in his clinical best to knock a match-winning 72 runs off 39 balls festooned with 10 fours and two sixes. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s fifer conceding only 24 was the decisive spell that set the tone for the win besides fetching him the Player of the Match award. A team hat-trick in the eighteenth over, saw the visitors sealing their deal to stand tall in front of the roaring the New Wanderers crowd. (READ | MS Dhoni surpasses Kumar Sangakkara to bag major milestone in T20Is)
Winning the toss, JP Duminy justified, “We will bowl first. It is easier to chase in a day game. It’s difficult to defend in the Highveld.” Following the tone, even Virat Kohli rued, “We wanted to bowl as well, wanted to chase down the target. But this is a gun wicket, it’s hard, even grass cover on it, so should play good throughout.” But, losing the toss acted as a boon anyway for the skipper and his team. A solid start from Rohit Sharma (21 from 9) saw India off to a flying start. Rohit’s departure gave Dhawan the confidence to boost up the innings. Batting beside comeback man Suresh Raina’s rise and fall, the Indian skipper’s delightful 26, Dhawan pummelled 10 boundaries and two sixes before perishing for 72. Manish Pandey steadied the innings in between when the run rate dipped as he stroked 29 off 27. MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya did their best to give the total an imposing figure.
For the Proteas, debutant Junior Dala shone brightly with the ball to curb India’s march, as he returned with 2 wickets conceding 42 runs in four overs. Chris Morris, Tabraiz Shamsi, Andile Phehlukwayo shared one apiece.
A reshaped hosts failed to get going, once again, with the likes of big guns JP Duminy, David Miller, JJ Smuts flopping when it mattered. Despite their blistering start, the Proteas faltered in their cause exposing their fond epithet- The Chokers.
A sound 70 from Reeza Hendricks was never going to help as wickets kept tumbling at the opposite end. Although Farhan Behardien steadied the ship in between with his handy 27-ball 39, the visitors literally blocked the boundaries, thus piling pressure on the shaky Proteas line-up. Heinrich Klaasen, who hit the ball neatly in their Pink ODI in the same venue, found the fielder today as he departed for a paltry 16. Phehlukwayo’s insignificant 13 at the end can be termed as a morale boost for coach Ottis Gibson.
Bowling on a batting friendly wicket, Bhuvneshwar Kumar became the stalwart to scalp a fifer. Kumar bowled four overs conceding 24 runs and bagging 5 wickets to create his personal best record and indeed a world record. He became the only bowler to pick five-for in the three formats of the Gentleman’s Game.
Yuzvendra Chahal, Hardik Pandya, Jaydev Unadkat chipped in with one wicket each. Jasprit Bumrah finished wicketless but was