Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
India pace bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar took career-best figures of 5-24 and India opener Shikhar Dhawan smashed a sensational 72 to lead their side to a 28-run win over South Africa in the first Twenty20 International in Johannesburg.
With his five-for, Kumar became the first Indian pace bowler to take a five-wicket haul in Twenty20 Internationals.
Being put in to bat first, India opener Rohit Sharma was firing on all cylinders, but his aggressive approach led to his downfall as he was caught behind off the bowling of debutant Junior Dala for a nine-ball 21.
Rohit was not given out initially, but the umpire’s decision was overturned following a review by South Africa.
Suresh Raina did not fare much better as he was caught and bowled by Dala for 15.
Dhawan and captain Virat Kohli stabilised the innings with a 59-run partnership before Kohli was given out lbw off the bowling of Tabraiz Shamsi for 26.
Kohli opted to review the decison, but his gamble didn’t pay off as replays showed that the ball was pitching in line and hitting the stumps.
Dhawan and Manish Pandey added 47 runs to India’s score before Dhawan was caught behind off the bowling of Andile Phehlukwayo for 72, which came off 39 balls and included 10 boundaries and two sixes.
Even tough MS Dhoni was cleaned up by Chris Morris for 18, Pandey struck and unbeaten 29 and Hardik Pandya added 13 to help India finish on 203/5 off their 20 overs, which marked their highest score against South Africa in Twenty20 Internationals.
Dala was the pick of the bowlers with two wickets, while Morris, Shamsi and Phehlukwayo chipped in with one wicket apiece.
Chasing 204 to win, South Africa got off to a quick start before opener JJ Smuts was dismissed by Kumar for 14.
Stand-in captain JP Duminy fell shortly after for three runs, while David Miller only made nine before being caught by Dhawan at mid-on off the bowling of Pandya.
Reeza Hendricks and Farhaan Behardien steadied things with an 81-run partnership, during which Hendricks surpassed his half-century, before Behardien was caught by Pandey at long-on off the bowling of Yuzvendra Chahal for 39.
Hendricks ended up scoring a career-best 70, which came off 50 balls and included eight boundaries and a six, before he was caught behind off the bowling of Kumar.
Kumar struck again three balls later as he removed Heinrich Klaasen for 16. He then took out Chris Morris the very next ball.
While Kumar could not complete his hat-trick, India did get another wicket on the final ball of his over as Dane Paterson was run out for one run.
With Andile Phehlukwayo falling in the final over, South Africa finished on 175/9, which left them well short of their target.
Kumar was the most successful bowler with five wickets, while Pandya, Chahal and Jaydev Unadkat claimed one wicket each.
Duminy was less than impressed with his side’s performance, and said: “Very disappointed. I think in terms of the first six overs with the fall, we’re always looking to take some wickets. And they’re going to get boundaries. I was happy in fact. But we couldn’t get any partnerships in.
“Pretty happy with our plans but we didn’t get the lines right. I thought we could get over the line chasing this target but we didn’t put the partnerships together. Very happy with the new guys. You can’t fault them, it’s up to us experienced batsmen.”
Kohli was thrilled to have taken a 1-0 lead, and said: “The injury was early on in the innings. It was in the glutes while taking a single. Thankfully it wasn’t a hamstring. So I went off before I would tear a muscle. It was a really good wicket to bat on. Rohit and Shikhar were outstanding at the top. It was a total team batting performance and in the end Bhuvi showing his experience – all in all it was a good team effort.
“We were looking to do this in T20s for a long time. It was one of our most balanced performances. You have to give credit to South Africa for their slog-overs bowling. We were thinking 220 in the 16th over but when Dhoni got out we had to pull it back. In the end it was a winning score.
“We wanna make the most of the time we have left here. It’s an opportunity to play for your country every time and we have fresh faces who are looking for those opportunities at all times so there’s a new motivation every time.”
Kumar was named Man of the Match, and said: “It’s amazing to get five in a T20. I just wanted to bowl in good areas and it’s a result of that. Seeing how they were bowling and how the wicket was, we planned our bowling and it worked for us.
“I enjoy bowling in tough situations (at the start and end of the innings). The knuckle ball (with the seam up) is something I’ve been working on for almost a year. Nowadays you need to figure out new ways to get wickets.”