Cape Town: India brought curtains on a highly successful South Africa tour by clinching the T20I series 2-1 with a comfortable seven-run win in the deciding third match at Newlands, here today.
India’s challenging tour had started at this very ground on 5 January and it culminated with a convincing win, which came in the absence of skipper Virat Kohli who did not play today’s match due to the stiff back.
India got a flourishing start with Suresh Raina (43 off 27) clobbering South African bowlers but the hosts succeeded in straight-jacketing the batsmen by taking the pace off the ball as visitors settled for 172 for seven.
The visitors choked South Africa with a remarkable disciplined bowling effort in Powerplay overs as they restricted the hosts to 165 for six to not only end the challenging tour on a high but also register maiden T20I series win on the South African soil.
Home skipper JP Duminy (55) and debutant Christiaan Jonker (49) showed stomach for the fight but their charge came too late.
India had recorded a dominating 5-1 win series win in the One-dayers and thus the team stamped its class in the white-ball cricket after losing the Test series 1-2.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar took 2-24 and was assisted by and Hardik Pandya (1-22) and Suresh Raina (1-27).
This was after Shikhar Dhawan top-scored with 47 off 40 balls and put on 65 runs for the second wicket with Raina to spearheaded the Indian innings.
Pandya had been sent up to provide acceleration to the innings but it never really came as he and MS Dhoni (12 off 11 balls) pushed the score past 150 in the 19th over. But a flurry of wickets came late in the innings.
Dhoni, Pandya and Dinesh Karthik (13) fell in the space of 8 balls as South Africa topped up a controlled display with the ball.
Chasing 173 for victory, South Africa opted for a new ploy and sent David Miller (24) to open the innings. They didn’t get off to a great start though, with in-form Reeza Hendricks (7) skying a catch off Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2-24).
Kumar and the returning Jasprit Bumrah (1-39) held things tight in their initial spells, while even Shardul Thakur (1-35) kept control of the scoring rate. So much so, the Proteas only managed to score 25 for one in the first six overs.
It was all to do for them as Suresh Raina (1-27) came up to bowl. Miller opened up, as did Duminy at the other end as they added 35 runs for the second wicket but consumed 38 balls in doing so.
Raina picked up the wicket of Miller just before the half-way mark, as the batsman was caught slogging in the deep. The big moment came when Hardik Pandya (1-22) dismissed Heinrich Klaasen (7) cheaply as Kumar took a sharp catch at mid-off.
Duminy then took the onus on himself and started hitting out. Axar Patel (0-16) was reserved for special attention and he proved expensive in the only over he bowled as Duminy scored his 11th T20I half-century off 38 balls.
Duminy and Jonker (49 off 24 balls) added 39 runs for the fourth wicket before Thakur snapped up the skipper to set the Proteas back further. Bumrah bowled Chris Morris (4) to further hurt the chase.
But the debutant had other plans as he launched a measured attack on the Indian bowling. With 53 needed off 18 balls, he took 18 runs off Thakur’s 18th over and then smacked Bumrah for another 16 in the penultimate over, putting up 51 runs off just 22 balls with Ferhaan Behardien (15 not out).
The equation came down to 19 off the last over, but Kumar held things tight and bowled India to a series win.