Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
India opener Rohit Sharma struck a sensational 115 as his side not only crushed South Africa by 73 runs in the fifth ODI in Port Elizabeth, but also won their first-ever bilateral ODI series in the country.
With their win, India now hold an unassailable 4-1 lead going into the sixth and final ODI. In addition to this, they also became the top-ranked ODI team.
Being put in to bat first, India got off to a solid start as Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit amassed a 48-run partnership before Dhawan was caught by Andile Phehlukwayo at deep square leg off the bowling of Kagiso Rabada for 34.
Rohit and India captain Virat Kohli kept the runs flowing with a 105-run stand, during which Rohit surpassed his fifty, before Kohli was run out by JP Duminy for 36.
Another terrible mix-up saw Ajinkya Rahane get run out by Morne Morkel for just eight runs.
Rohit Sharma and Shreyas Iyer steadied things with a 60-run partnership, during which Rohit brought up his century.
The opening batsman ended up making 115 off 126 balls, which included 11 boundaries and four sixes, before he was caught behind off the bowling of Lungi Ngidi.
Ngidi struck again the very next ball as Hardik Pandya suffered the same fate as Rohit and had to trudge back to the pavilion for a golden duck.
Iyer ended up making 30, while MS Dhoni scored 19 before being removed by Ngidi.
With Bhuvneshwar Kumar making an unbeaten 19, India finished on 274/7 off their 50 overs.
Ngidi was the pick of the bowlers with four wickets, while Rabada chipped in with one.
Chasing 275 to win, South Africa made a great start to their innings as Hashim Amla and stand-in captain Aiden Markram amassed a 52-run partnership before Markram was caught by Kohli at mid-off off the bowling of Jasprit Bumrah for 32.
Duminy and AB de Villiers followed soon after as they were both dismissed by Pandya for one and six runs respectively.
Amla and David Miller curbed the flow of wickets with a 62-run stand before Miller was clean bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal for 36.
Amla went on to make 71 off 92 balls, which included five boundaries, before he was run out by Pandya.
Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Phehlukwayo failed to trouble the scorers, while Rabada only made three runs. Two balls after Rabada was dismissed, Heinrich Klaasen was stumped by Dhoni off the bowling of Kuldeep Yadav for a 42-ball 39.
Kuldeep struck for a third time in the over as he removed Tabraiz Shamsi the very next ball.
The Proteas ended up being bowled out for 201 when Morne Morkel was given out lbw off the bowling of Chahal for one run.
Kuldeep was the most successful bowler with four wickets, while Pandya and Chahal took two wickets apiece. As for Bumrah, he claimed one wicket.
Markram was gutted to have lost the series, and said: “It has been difficult, yes. Firstly credit goes to India. Our batting wasn’t up to scratch. You struggle to build momentum when you lose wickets. They’ve got their game plans nailed so credit to how they’ve played.
“Lungi’s spell was spectacular. To keep taking wickets in that middle and end period was important. I was happy at the halfway stage. There were some soft dismissals, starting from myself. I do believe we’ve played their spinners progressively better in the series. It’s a learning process. Lot of pride to play for now and we’re gonna look to bounce back and end the series on a positive note.”
Kohli was thrilled to have secured a historic series win, and said: “Very pleased, another complete performance from us. Only one thing we had was the pressure of losing this series and we knew that. It’s history and the guys have worked hard for it. Ever since the third Test in Johannesburg it’s been a good time for us. It’s been a collective effort to create history.
“When three guys at the top are being consistent, the guys who get an opportunity every now and then might not click. After this series is wrapped up, we’ll sit down and think about where to improve. For now, 4-1 feels great. We want to win 5-1 for sure, but yeah, there might a scenario for a few more guys to get a chance next match. But the ultimate priority is to win and we’ll do anything we can to win.”
Rohit was named Man of the Match, and said: “A long time coming, had a good time in the middle. As the game went on the wicket got slower. It’s always a good feeling when you score a hundred and your team wins. Gotta keep yourself in a good frame of mind – that’s what I’ve been doing.
“I knew I don’t have to change a lot and the runs will come. We were in a bit of bother and it was important for me to bat long. I’m glad we could put up the runs on the board and come out and defend it. It’s been the hallmark of our team that once you get in, you make it count at the top three. We face the most deliveries. It was my day today.”