On Thursday at Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi, India saw its unbeaten streak of 13 T20Is come to an abrupt halt after they failed to defend 211 against South Africa. The tourists rode on the brute force of David Miller and Rassie van der Dussen to mow down the total with ease, despite trailing for the majority of the game.
It was Rishabh Pant’s first game as the skipper, and while he must have been pleased with the batting performance, the bowling unit looked utterly toothless against Dussen and Miller. On a pitch with true pace and bounce, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Avesh Khan ran out of ideas in death overs, and excessive dew affected Harshal Patel’s execution. Hardik Pandya played a breezy knock, but ended up conceding 18 runs in the only over he bowled.
“I think we had enough on the board but were off with our execution, but credit to the opposition,” Pant said after the match. “Mostly we executed our plans (to Miller) but the wicket got better and better. We were very happy with the total but next time we are in a similar situation we will do better.”
The pitch did get easier to bat on as the game progressed, but Pant too messed up with his bowling changes, and his decision to hold off Yuzvendra Chahal is being questioned. Even though Chahal leaked 26 runs in 13 balls, the leggie has a knack for providing crucial breakthroughs. After conceding 16 runs in his first over, bowled in the Powerplay, Chahal gave just 10 runs in the next seven balls.
So instead of completing the full quota of Axar Patel, Pant could have gone ahead with Chahal, when the partnership was brewing between Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller.
“Not using Yuzvendra Chahal’s full quota of four overs is something Rishabh Pant will look at in hindsight and team management will have conversations around. Because we have seen Chahal do that. He’s having a tough day but having that ability to come back and take wickets. And what the Indian team required to win this game was to bring the next batter in. So the call was in your hand,” Zaheer Khan said on Cricbuzz’s post-match show.
With 69 needed off 29 balls, Shreyas Iyer, stationed at the deep mid-wicket, spilled a regulation catch of Rassie van der Dussen, who then ended up snatching the game on his game. Having scored 29 off 30 deliveries, van der Dussen shifted through the gears in no time after the dropped chance, slamming 45 off the next 15 balls.
Iyer’s strike rate against fast bowling was another issue. He smothered the spinners as soon as he came to the crease, whacking three sixes against Tabraiz Shamsi, However, he was unable to carry on with the same tempo against the pacers. Iyer’s 27-ball 36 was the slowest knock from an Indian batter.
When Harshal Patel came to bowl his penultimate over, the match was very much in the balance, perhaps tilting a bit to the home side. South Africa needed 56 off the last four overs, and they didn’t have much batting depth after this wicket. Van der Dussen started the over on 30 off 32, but in the next six balls, he struck three sixes and a four to race away to a half-century.
Harshal missed his mark on the first two balls and van der Dussen was quick to punish on both occasions. For the fifth ball, Harshal overcompensated by banging it too short. Van der Dussen got into the position and nailed an emphatic pull over deep mid-wicket.
In the next over, Bhuvneshwar Kumar too ended up giving 22 runs. David Miller welcomed him with a six over long-on before van der Dussen finished it with a flurry of boundaries to take the sting out of the contest.
“We have a lot of belief in Rassie. We have seen him do that time and time again where he kind of starts slowly and then finds a way to bring it back at the end. He is a guy we can see as a finisher in our team. Him partnering with David does make out batting explosive,” said Temba Bavuma, the Proteas skipper, after the game.
Featured Image Credit: BCCI