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India vs SA ODI Series Review: The Travellers Triumph

Two weeks ago, it all looked good for India as they attempted to chase the 303 runs amassed by South Africa. With Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane’s massive 149-run partnership, it seemed as though the match was swinging heavily in their favour. Even after their departures, Indian supporters would have been confident of MS Dhoni taking them home easily, with just 31 runs required from 20 balls.

Little did they know, however, that South Africa’s young superstar, Kagiso Rabada, at the tender age of 20, would hold his nerve and bowl a brilliant final over defending 11 runs and dismissing the Indian captain and Stuart Binny in the process. Bowling to arguably the world’s greatest finisher in recent years, the young man was calm, steering his team to what was at one stage an unlikely victory. From there, the next two games followed in the same vein with first South Africa and then India managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. A pattern was beginning to emerge: the team who won the toss and batted first would ultimately triumph over the other.

India vs SA ODI Series Review

Limiting India to just 247 in the second ODI, South Africa would have been confident of reaching that relatively low target with ease and going 2-0 up in the series. The dismissals of J.P Duminy and Faf Du Plessis, however, sparked a middle order collapse, leaving South Africa eventually 22 runs short of the winning total. Similarly, India’s hopes of victory would have been high in the third ODI after restricting South Africa to 270. With Dhoni and Virat Kohli in complete control, it looked as though India would sail into a 2-1 lead. South Africa’s bowlers had a different idea though and were simply superb with their perfect lengths as they strangled India into a losing position. Morne Morkel was particularly brilliant accounting for the late scalps of Dhoni, Rahane and Kohli and ensuring South Africa were in the ascendancy heading into the final two matches.

South Africa would have been keen to wrap up the series in Chennai but were halted by Kohli’s spectacular 138 runs. While they did limit the damage and allow India only 69 runs for the loss of five wickets in the last ten overs, 300 to chase was still quite daunting on the wicket they were using. While wickets fell around him at regular intervals, A.B De Villiers battled his way to yet another ODI century and while he remained at the crease, South Africans still harboured hope of victory. With his departure in the 45th over, however, the result was a foregone conclusion and the series was tied yet again. The boisterous Wankhede crowd awaited for the series decider that promised to be an epic battle to determine which of the two closely matched teams would take the series.

When De Villiers won the toss yesterday, he naturally chose to bat first given that each match in the series had been won by the side who set the total. No-one would have imagined that South Africa would reach a massive 438, a mere five runs short of the world record held by Sri Lanka. With Quinton De Kock, Du Plessis and then the ever exceptional De Villiers all reaching centuries, a total over 400 was always on the cards. De Villiers, in particular, amazed the crowd with his sheer innovation, displaying his 360 degree brilliance as he helped himself to 119 of just 61 balls.

Chants of “AB” rang around the stadium making the atmosphere seem more like Johannesburg than Mumbai. Conceding 438, it was always going to be a massive uphill battle for India to chase it down. Losing Sharma and Kohli early did little to help matters and although Dhawan and Rahane built up a significant partnership, it was always going to be a nearly impossible task to reach 438, especially with the quality of South African bowlers on display.

When Rabada claimed the last wicket of Amit Mishra, South Africa could finally revel in a 214-run victory, India’s greatest ever defeat on home soil. Lead from the front by their spectacular captain and man of the series, AB De Villiers, they had achieved what no previous South African team had done before — an ODI series triumph in India. With already two trophies in the bag for the visitors, they will hope they can emulate the feat by emerging victorious in the Test series too. Having not lost an away Test series since 2006, they will be confident in completing a clean sweep and ending the tour on the most successful note possible.


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