An absolute mayhem was what took place at the Greenfield Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram with the first T20I barely into its third over. With only nine runs on the board, South Africa had already lost half their side after India won a crucial toss and opted to bowl first on a pitch with some grass on it. The game was practically decided at that phase itself.
The Proteas, courtesy Keshav Maharaj (41) and Aiden Markram (25), somehow avoided the ignominy of being bowled out under 100, limping their way to 106 for 8. India, thereafter, with a little bit of hiccup early in their run chase, eventually reached home with 20 balls to spare, registering a comprehensive eight-wicket win to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Arshdeep Singh (3/32), returning to the XI post his conditioning-related work at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, and Deepak Chahar(2/24) ran riot with their controlled swing early on, and it seemed as if the Proteas’ total would not even reach 50 when they were reeling at 9 for 5 halfway into the third over.
The conditions weren’t at all too easy for the batters as India also had to do away with their ultra-aggressive approach with the bat, managing only 17 for 1 after six overs. The ball still seemed to be doing a little bit, and Kagiso Rabada took advantage of that to dismiss captain Rohit Sharma, who perished for nought.
All eyes were on the “resurgent” Virat Kohli (3) then, but he played a poor shot to a rising delivery from Anrich Nortje that put India in a spot of bother.
Fortunately for the hosts, Suryakumar Yadav (50 not out), in sublime form, got going straightaway as his fluency rubbed off on KL Rahul (51 not out), who was looking scratchy initially.
Obviously, South Africa’s total was too paltry to maintain the pressure on India. It also goes on to reflect how massive a role both Arshdeep and Chahar played in helpful conditions. The South Africans’ horrendous application against the moving ball was equally at fault, given the manner in which Quinton de Kock and Rilee Rossouw fell off Arshdeep.
Along with Rossouw, David Miller and Tristan Stubbs were also dismissed off the very first ball they faced. Besides, Jasprit Bumrah complaining of back pain and missing the game turned out to be a blessing in disguise for India. Had Bumrah been fit, either Chahar or Arshdeep would have had to sit out.
For Man of the Match Arshdeep, Miller’s wicket was a key one.
“There was a lot of help from the surface, and DC (Chahar) bhai set the tone (with Temba Bavuma’s wicket in the first over) and I just wanted to execute the plans,” the left-arm quick said.“I loved the wicket of David Miller. That was a key wicket. He was expecting the outswinger, but I got that to swing in and clean him up.”