Rajkot: A century by Quinton de Kock and some excellent bowling by Morne Morkel powered South Africa to an 18-run victory in their third One-Day International (ODI) against India at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Sunday.
De Kock scored 103 runs and put together a 118-run stand for the third wicket with Faf du Plessis (60) to propel the visitors to a fighting total of 270/7. Morkel then spearheaded the South African attack with an excellent display of pace bowling on the bating friendly wicket as the hosts could only manage 252/6 despite fluent half-centuries from Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
The lanky right-armer chipped away a chunk of the Indian top and middle order to return figures of 4/39 from his 10 overs.
The other South African bowler also did well with spinners J.P. Duminy (1/46) and Imran Tahir (1/51) picking up a wicket apiece. Although fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Kasigo Rabada went wicketless, they troubled the batsmen with their pace and movement.
The Proteas have thus taken a 2-1 lead in the five-ODI series. They won the first match in Kanpur by five runs before the Indians levelled the series by registering a 22-run victory at Indore.
For the hosts, Kohli and Rohit sparkled with the bat. Kohli scored 77 runs of 99 deliveries to anchor the Indian chase. The Delhi batsman hit five boundaries during his knock. An attempt to hit Morkel over the onside proved to be his undoing as he could only find Russell Domingo at deep midwicket.
Rohit was also in excellent form as he scored 65 off 74 deliveries. He studded his innings with seven hits to the fence and a couple sixes before offering an easy caught and bowled chance to J.P. Duminy.
Defending a modest total, the South African pacers generated considerable pace and movement to restrict the hosts’ scoring rate in the early overs. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma survived a few close calls to give the Indian chase a steady start before the former miscued an attempted drive off Morkel with AB de Villiers lapping up the edge behind the stumps.
Kohli and Rohit kept the Indian chase on track with a 72-run partnership. Rohit, who was a bit subdued in the early stages, grew more confident as he approached his half-century, reaching that landmark by dancing down the track to smash Tahir over long off for a six.
After the Mumbai batsman had returned to the pavilion, Kohli put together a fighting 80-run stand with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Although the Proteas managed to restrict the scoring with some accurate bowling and excellent field placements, the duo managed to keep the required run rate within reasonable limits.
It was Morkel who ultimately broke the partnership when he surprised Dhoni with some extra bounce and Steyn pulled off an easy catch at short third man. The off-colour Suresh Raina survived just two deliveries before departing for a duck.
Kohli also succumbed to the pressure of boosting the sagging run rate and when Ajinkya Rahane fell while attempting a similar shot off the very next ball, a South African victory was only a matter of time.
Earlier, de Kock led the way with a century as South Africa posted a total of 270/7 after opting to bat on winning the toss.
Opening the innings along with David Miller, de Kock scored 103 runs off 118 deliveries to give a solid platform to the South African innings. He smashed 11 boundaries and a six before being run out. This was de Kock’s seventh ODI century. The left-hander and du Plessis put together an 118-run stand for the third wicket that threatened India.
The Proteas started well with their batsmen handling the Indian bowling comfortably on the flat track. But the Indians pulled off a flurry of late wickets to restrict the visitors.
Pacer Mohit Sharma was the most successful among the India bowlers with figures of 2/62 in his nine overs. The right-armer struggled to contain the South African batsmen in his first spell, but returned to clinch the crucial wickets of Faf du Plesis and J.P. Duminy which helped put the brakes on the scoring rate.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra (1/38), experienced off-spinner Harbhajan Singh (1/41) and left-arm spinner Axar Patel (1/51) were also among the wickets.
South Africa were off to a steady start with openers Quinton de Kock and David Miller handling Indian pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma comfortably on the flat wicket.
Miller, who had struggled during the earlier matches on the tour, was in much better form on Sunday. The footwork was back and some of his shots were pure delight to watch. The left-hander looked set for a big score until he mistimed a Harbhajan delivery only to edge the ball to Ajinkya Rahane at backward point.
The visitors suffered a big blow soon after as Mishra outfoxed the experienced Hashim Amla with one that spun away after pitching. Faf du Plesis had a narrow escape when he misread a slower one from Mohit Sharma and holed out to Virat Kohli at long on. But Mohit’s celebration was cut short by the third umpire who ruled that the pacer overstepped the crease.
Faf had a reprieve in the very next over as an Axar Patel delivery took the leading edge and spooned up in the air, but a diving Suresh Raina was unable to latch on to the ball. The Indians were left rue that costly miss as the right-hander went on to score a half-century.
He built up a 118-run stand with de kock as the duo put the Proteas on course for a big score. With the South Africans crossing the 200-run mark in the 38th over, the visitors seemed set for a 300-plus total. But du Plesis’ dismissal in the next over seemed to rob the South Africans of their momentum. Looking to smash Mohit through the off-side, du Plesis miscued his shot with Bhuvneshwar Kumar pulling off the catch at short third man.
Quinton was run out in the very next over as Shikhar Dhawan pulled off a smart effort in the field.
Patel then put the South Africans in further trouble by sending back the dangerous AB de Villiers. De Villiers, who got off the mark by smashing Harbhajan for a boundary through the covers, was trapped leg before while attempting to cut Patel towards point. By the time Duminy holed out to long on while trying to jack up the run rate, the visitors’ hopes of putting up a big total had all but vanished.