After clinching the T20I series against Australia 2-1, India outmuscled South Africa in a low-scoring clash to take a 1-0 lead, on Wednesday. They bundled out the visitors for a below-par total of 106 before chasing it down in just 16.4 overs.
It was an uncharacteristic spicy, greenish pitch in Thiruvananthpuram, aiding the fast bowlers with an extravagant movement. Deepak Chahar and Arshdeep Singh set the tone to reduce the Proteas to 9/5 before Keshav Maharaj’s gritty knock propelled them to 106.
Both Chahar and Arshdeep proved to be unplayable, but then Indian batters also struggled to negate the movement of Kagiso Rabada and Wayne Parnell. After losing Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli cheaply, India too were staring at a very similar collapse that unfolded at the other end.
But KL Rahul held the innings from one end, soaking up the deliveries and bringing occasional boundaries, while Suryakumar continued at his own tempo. Rahul scored 51 off 56 deliveries, with the help of two fours and four sixes.
Many were disappointed with Rahul’s effort and criticized him for playing Test in T20Is. His strike rate has often been a point of concern, but on this particular occasion, Team India needed someone to anchor the innings. Rahul’s presence also allowed Suryakumar Yadav to play his natural game, as smashed 50 off 33 while others struggled to score.
“The criticism of KL Rahul’s batting approach last night was seriously misplaced…there’s a reason why the opponents scored only 106 in 20 overs and your team was 2 down for not much. It was a top-quality knock by KLR, for he chose to fight it out. Well played,” wrote Aakash Chopra, the former cricketer, on Twitter.
After the game, Rahul rated this as one of the toughest pitches in T20Is. “We have played in some difficult conditions like this but I haven’t got runs, so this was hard work,” he said.
“We did practice here yesterday and that was a humbling experience as well, we all came in prepared mentally as it was not going to be an easy wicket and I was ready to do the dirty work, ready to be challenged and get the job done for the team,” he added.
Lead Image: KL Rahul/Twitter