Rajkot: A brilliant all-round display helped India beat South Africa by 82 runs in the fourth T20I in Rajkot.
It was far from the perfect start for the hosts in their efforts to level up the series. Put into bat first, the Indian batters failed to gain any sort of momentum in the first half of the innings. South Africa bowled with great discipline, containing the flow of runs and striking at regular intervals.
Ruturaj Gaikwad was the first one to walk back, with Lungi Ngidi striking early. Shreyas Iyer too couldn’t contribute much, perishing against the pace of Marco Jansen. Ishan Kishan and Rishabh Pant got starts, but failed to convert it into a big one falling for 27 and 17 respectively against Anrich Norje and Keshav Maharaj.
At 81/4 after 12.5 overs, India had their backs against the wall and Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya had a massive task on their hands.
South Africa have kept the lids on India’s scoring after 10 overs.
Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya – two players with massive reputations as devastating finishers surely lived up to their billing! The pair embarked on an enterprising partnership, which put the visitors on the backfoot for the first time in the contest.
Their stand of 65 off only 33 deliveries injected some much-needed momentum in what was a meek effort till that point. Pandya scored 46 off only 31 before being dismissed by Ngidi, with Shamsi taking a brilliant catch. Dinesh Karthik would continue in the same vein despite losing his partner, bringing up his maiden T20I fifty.
He would immediately walk back afterwards, attempting a big slog-sweep against Dwaine Pretorius, but it was a job well done in a knock of 55. India managed to score 73 runs in their last five overs, ending up with a highly competitive score of 169/6, largely due to the efforts of the pair.
The pitch in Rajkot was assisting the bowlers, especially when the ball was pitched on a hard length. Maintaining a consistent line and length was the order of the day and the Indian bowlers did it with great effect. South Africa endured an early blow when skipper Temba Bavuma had to retire hurt after injuring his elbow. The run-out of Quinton de Kock further didn’t help matters.
Dwaine Pretorius was bowled by a brilliant delivery from Avesh Khan for a duck. Heinrich Klaasen was outfoxed by the skill of Yuzvendra Chahal, walking back for 8. David Miller too couldn’t contribute much, as the length delivery again did the trick, with Harshal Patel getting through his gates.
At 59, South Africa had lost four wickets, with a massive task now on their hands. The pressure would speak as South Africa lost a flurry of wickets in quick succession. The Indian bowlers were relentless, skittling out the South African lower order. Bavuma did not walk out to bat with both teams shaking hands when the ninth wicket fell at 87, handing India a comprehensive 82-run victory. Avesh Khan was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 4/18.
After India’s 82-run victory, the series has now been perfectly set up for a scintillating finale in Bengaluru. South Africa were brilliant in the first two matches but the hosts have fought back with great gusto to level up the scores.
The fifth and final clash will be played at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on June 19, with a winner being hard to predict. With the T20 World Cup not far away, a pressure cooker situation though will be the perfect preparation for both the sides heading into Australia.
The score of 87 by South Africa is their lowest ever score in a T20I contest.