India falter as South Africa take 2-1 lead in ODI series

India falter as South Africa take 2-1 lead in ODI series

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Fast bowler Morne Morkel grabbed four wickets to derail India’s chase after opener Quinton de Kock recorded his fourth ODI century against the hosts to help fashion South Africa’s 18-run victory in the third ODI in Rajkot. With the win, the visitors take a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.

Brief scores: South Africa 270-7 in 50 overs (Q de Kock 103, F du Plessis 60, M Sharma 2-62) beat India 252-6 in 50 overs  ( V Kohli 77, R Sharma 65, M Dhoni 47,  M Morkel 4-39).

Virat Kohli returned to form with a controlled 77 and almost set up the home team’s successful chase with partnerships of 72 for the second wicket with opener Rohit Sharma (65) and 80 for the next with skipper Mahendra Dhoni (47).

However, Man of the Match, Morkel (4-39), reintroduced into the attack, dismissed Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane in identical fashion – caught at deep mid-wicket by David Miller – off successive balls, after earlier having sent back Dhoni caught at short third man by Dale Steyn.

Chasing 271 for victory under lights, India got off to a slow start before Kohli, batting at his favoured No 3 slot, lifted the scoring rate in the company of Sharma first and then Dhoni, who promoted himself to No 4.

India only needed 86 from 60 deliveries for victory with eight wickets in hand and two set batsmen in Kohli and Dhoni in the middle, when Morkel turned the match on its head. Morkel forced Dhoni to dab to short third-man before leg-spinner Imran Tahir got Suresh Raina (zero) caught at long-off by Miller, who held four catches.

India were still in with a chance, needing 55 off 30 balls with Kohli and in-form Rahane in the middle before Morkel’s double blow sealed it.

“I thought 270 was a par score, the wicket kept getting lower and slower and the dew didn't help us out. It became a bit two-paced and became difficult to play big shots,” Dhoni said at the prize-giving ceremony. “We are looking for batsmen to play at 5, 6 and 7. Till they play there, we won’t know who is a good bet over there.

“And we are looking to give chances as well so it's a tricky one. Jinx (Ajinkya Rahane) batted well at No 3 but Virat (Kohli) couldn't score, this is something we will have to look at. I thought our bowlers did well, maybe a bit more dew would have made it difficult. They (South Africa) batted when the wicket was at its best and they also couldn't find runs at the death.”

Earlier, Left-hander de Kock (103, 11x4, 1x6), playing in his 50th ODI, put on 72 for the opening wicket with David Miller (33) to get the visitors off to a good start. Later, he also shared in an 118-run stand for the third wicket with Faf du Plessis (60) to help the visitors post 270-7 after opting to bat.

However, the Proteas suffered a batting collapse following du Plessis’ dismissal, caught at short third man by Bhuvneshwar Kumar off pacer Mohit Sharma, after hitting his third successive fifty. The visitors lost de Kock run out and the dangerous AB de Villiers (4) lbw to left-arm spinner Axar Patel in the space of nine deliveries to be reduced to 210-5 in 40.1 overs.

Despite Farhaan Behardien’s cameo (33 not out), India’s bowlers staged a remarkable recovery to keep the opposition’s score down to an achievable target.

The fourth ODI will be played in Chennai on October 22.

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