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India fall to pace, again

Calcutta/Durban: The Indians have been enjoying a phenomenal year on the cricket field. Their success stories in different formats have been defined as conquests of a new-age team, identified by their fearless game.

Fearless they may still be, especially after Virat Kohli declared on Saturday that the Indians are not afraid of anyone, but that they are not fully equipped to handle the ‘hot’ South African pace attack was once again evident on Sunday when the visitors surrendered to a 134-run defeat.

It may be a new-age team, but it is plagued by the age-old problem. The Durban script wasn’t much different from the one in Johannesburg. It was a 141-run loss on Thursday. And then it was a 134-run humiliation on Sunday. The only difference being that Sunday’s surrender was even meeker, with the Indian team failing to cross even the 150-run mark.

With the Test series coming up, one wonders how, or rather what, will the Indians do to get over their weakness.

It is pretty weird, not surprising though, to note that this very Indian team were chasing down almost impossible totals not so long ago in the ODI series against Australia. Rohit Sharma, who made a 26-ball 19 on Sunday, even slammed a double century in one of the matches against the Aussies.

Yet now, eleven Indian players are collectively proving to be incapable of crossing the 200-mark!

That there were no such demons in the pitch was proved by the South African opening duo of Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla — both registering centuries and sharing a stand of 194 runs. But a look at Indian scorecard will narrate a very different tale. A horrifying one from the batting point of view.

Chasing 281 for victory, India kept losing wickets as if they were in a hurry to rush back to the pavilion. India had made a few changes to their playing XI from the last match. Yuvraj Singh was out due to a back spasm and Rahane came in for him. Both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma were dropped after unimpressive outings in the last match and Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma replaced them in the XI. However, change of personnel didn’t effect in an improved show. Rather, it worsened.

Shikhar Dhawan was the first to fall, departing without scoring after facing just two balls. He was caught at point off a Dale Steyn delivery. Virat’s day turned out to be as bad, caught behind off Lonwobo Tsotsobe’s outgoing delivery. He, too, made a nought. India then lost Rohit and Rahane’s wickets and, at 34 for four, had begun looking to be on the losing side.

Suresh Raina (36), captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (19), Ravindra Jadeja (26) and Ravichandran Ashwin (15) tried their best, but fell short of what was required. India were eventually bundled out for 146 in 35.1 overs with Tsotsobe (4/25) and Steyn (3/17) emerging star bowlers for the hosts.

Earlier, it was all about the De Kock-Amla story. De Kock’s 106 off 118 balls and Amla’s 100 off 117 balls ensured that South Africa were never in want of runs. While it was Man of the Match De Kock’s second hundred on the trot, Amla crossed the 4000-run mark in ODIs, the quickest to do so in 81 matches, beating Viv Richards’ marker of 88 games.

Amla later said that he was “a bit embarrassed” to have overtaken Richards’ record. South Africa, certainly, weren’t.