India vs South Africa | Talking points from third ODI in Cape Town

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India vs South Africa | Talking points from third ODI in Cape Town

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Bastab K Parida

02/07/2018

Virat Kohli and the wrist-spinners gifted India an unassailable 3-0 lead in the ODI series after the visitors bundled the hosts out for a paltry 179 runs. Batting first, riding on a Kohli master-class, India scored 303 runs and as it turned out, it was more than enough for the hosts to handle.

Brief Scores: India 303/6 (Virat Kohli 160*, Shikhar Dhawan 76; Jean-Paul Duminy 2/60, Chris Morris 1/45) beat South Africa 179/10 (JP Duminy 51, Aiden Markram 32; Yuzvendra Chahal 4/46, Kuldeep Yadav 4/23) by 124 runs.

Cape Town – a stage for another Kohli epoch

In the space-time continuum, perfect engineering meets transcendental art to form the masterpiece and it is sublime. Dissecting the perfection sometimes becomes a boring affair and therefore, it is always wise to enjoy the experience instead of trying to break down the nitty gritties of the beautiful art on display. 

Despite making the ODI cricketing world his stage to produce many an epic, Virat Kohli’s innings against South Africa today was one of the kind to leave you breathless as well as speechless. The usual Kohli swagger attached to the innings today was not there today, but at the end of the innings, he managed to enter the dressing room with his second highest ODI score and yet another century to his name and you think how!

In the innings, there was not even a single flashy shot played by him. He respected all the good balls bowled by the spinning duo of JP Duminy and Imran Tahir in the middle overs, but when there was a bad ball on offer, he managed to guide them in their due direction. While there was nothing new about this description, the thing that actually would have surprised anyone watching the game was that he never looked like taking the centre stage. The seamlessness with which Kohli guided his innings today was just a thing of beauty and the Cape Town faithful were treated to something that they will remember for time immemorial. 

Indian middle-order gets exposed, once again

India’s top three batsmen are as good as any in the world and in their arsenal, they have two of the best death bowlers and two young wrist-spinners to wreck havoc. Before the shocking loss to Sri Lanka in Dharamsala, India had lost just eight of their last 34 ODIs, and most of the defeats came in the back of batting failure by the middle order.

While India have managed to address their flat-pitch bowler conundrum by bringing wrist-spinners to the squad, their middle order struggle continued for yet another day. While in the first two matches, the top order did the bulk of the heavy lifting, today, India needed their middle order batsmen to provide stability when spinners were operating in tandem. However, after the dismissal of Shikhar Dhawan, the Indian middle-order batsmen fell like a house of cards and the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, and MS Dhoni were rendered ineffective. While there were sufficient overs for them to support their captain in the middle, the trio instead tried to go for flashy strokes and threw away their wickets. They could have taken inspiration from Virat Kohli, for the way he was able to rotate the strike and at the same time, made sure that he was light years ahead of the opposition bowling.

Duminy’s day to shine under the sun

After the second ODI loss in Centurion, South Africa batting coach Dale Benkenstein summed up their batting downfall by saying, "Even though AB and Faf aren't playing, there are some very senior players that are still playing. It's a great opportunity for them to put their hands up and start winning some games."

Although he didn’t take anyone’s name, he might have signalled either of Hashim Amla or JP Duminy. Despite being an established member of the limited-overs unit for more than a decade, Duminy has still left too many questions unanswered about his ability. His ODI centuries have only ever come against Zimbabwe and the Netherlands, and he has just two innings of above 80 runs against the top-eight oppositions. However, with the absence of the likes of the big stars, he was provided with an opportunity to make a mark in the series and he did his best to live up to that faith. 

With Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli going strong, he came in to break the partnership in the 24th over and that resulted in the Indian batsmen failing to open their arms in the middle overs. He capitalised on his first wicket to dismiss Ajinkya Rahane for 11, which also had a devastating effect on Kohli’s pace as he turned to be a more sedate run accumulator during the period in which he was operating. 

With the bat, he also made a strong statement and completed his 25th ODI half-century, but much like a microcosm of his career, he failed to make that count and was dismissed for 51, against the run of play. However, it was a day that explained why, despite his inconsistency, Duminy has continued to be rated highly by the South African management. 

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