JOHANNESBURG – Heinrich Klaasen wore the cloak of a hero at the Wanderers on Saturday night as South Africa pulled off a stunning five-wicket victory over India that kept alive their hopes of drawing the six-match ODI series, while also maintaining their unbeaten record when clad in pink.
Klaasen finished unbeaten on 43 off only 27 balls, smashing five fours and a six, as – in just his second One-Day International – he showed terrific composure and nous to haul the Proteas across the winning line with 15 balls to spare.
The South Africans needed a revised target of 202 to win off 28 overs after rain stopped play with the score on 43/1 off 7.2 overs, following India’s 289/7 off their 50 overs.
Klaasen’s partnership of 72 with David Miller for the fifth wicket completely turned the game in the home side’s favour after Indian spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, hitherto along with Virat Kohli the dominant players in the series, had seemingly put the tourists on top.
Miller was ‘out’ twice and he was dropped once, following which he played his part in a memorable victory.
Miller was dropped on six by Shreyas Iyer and bowled two balls later by Chahal – only to be called back when TV replays showed the Indian leg-spinner had no part of his front foot behind the popping crease – and was then caught off the subsequent ‘free hit’.
In the next over bowled by Hardik Pandya, Miller started cashing in on all those chances, blasting three consecutive fours, and the sense of dread that had hung over the stadium following AB de Villiers’ dismissal started to lift.
Klaasen, meanwhile, had quickly gotten in tune with the atmosphere and what was required, and played an innings that belied his inexperience at this level by intelligently manipulating the spinners’ lines, and for once in this series befuddling Chahal in particular.
There were reverse sweeps, conventional sweeps and some lovely late dabs through gully, which forced the bowlers to think of some new plans for a change.
By the time Miller was out for 39 (28 balls, 4x4, 2x6), the match was back in South Africa’s favour.
Andile Phehlukwayo played an emphatic hand at the end, smashing three sixes and a four, including the match-winning blow over midwicket securing the win. He was not out on 23 off only five balls.
The Proteas were set a revised target of 202 which they had to get in 28 overs after a second break for rain had delayed the game by 103 minutes.
The rain started falling just as TV umpire Ian Gould had completed the ritual that confirmed Aiden Markram’s dismissal – lbw playing all around another prodigious in-ducker from Jasprit Bumrah.
When the match resumed, the hosts needed to score an additional 159 runs off 124 balls.
De Villiers had provided hope with a sparkling innings of 26 (18 balls, 1x4, 2x6), but when he was out in the 17th over, South Africa still needed 100 runs and all hope seemed lost.
Then the luck went the home team’s way.
All over as @andileluck19 wins the game with a 6. He ends unbeaten on 23 off 5 balls, yes 5 BALLS he faced. A word for @Heini22 too, who is unbeaten on 43 at the end. SA keep the series alive and make it 3-1 #ProteaFire #PinkODI #SAvIND #MomentumODI pic.twitter.com/qWewEPPaaX
Earlier, the Proteas was sucked back into that place where Kohli was in complete control.
This was an innings – at least a start to one – that was different to the two centuries he’d delivered earlier in the series.
There was more aggression and a ploy to play the ball in the air that wasn’t part of his method at Newlands.
There were two quite stunning strokes off Lungi Ngidi – with the first, he walked down the crease and flicked the ball through mid-on, retaining balance with his back leg in the air, while the second will go down as one of the greatest shots seen at this storied venue.
Another saunter down the pitch, and meeting a full delivery with the full face of the bat, Kohli hit the most magnificent straight drive into the second tier of the Centenary Stand.
India were dominant at that point, scoring at just under eight runs an over with Kohli in complete control and Shikhar Dhawan riding his luck.
The left-handed opener, featuring in his 100th ODI, played and missed and chopped balls off the inside edge past the stumps.
In between there were some delicious drives and pulls as he brought up a 13th ODI hundred, but it was far from a fluent innings.
The Proteas – who’d dropped Imran Tahir, who conceded 133 runs for one wicket in the series – bowled quite well.
But such was the nature of the pitch – good pace, with bounce that could be trusted – that it required great discipline from the home team’s bowlers to keep the Indians in sight.
The Proteas in pink keep their winning streak going and keep the ODI series alive! India are defeated by 5 wickets with 15 balls remaining (DLS Method) at the Wanderers!#SAvIND scorecard: https://t.co/e50mjmzvIn pic.twitter.com/4MBG4V30ef
Wickets were naturally vital, and Kohli’s, the most prized at the best of times, even more so on Saturday.
When Chris Morris dismissed him with the first ball of his second spell, the flow of the innings – and indeed ultimately the match, changed.
India couldn’t accelerate their scoring, with South Africa, following a 53-minute stoppage for rain, increasing their intensity and applying greater pressure.
Even Andile Phehlukwayo, who’d struggled in his first spell – conceding 27 in three overs – turned around his evening, mixing lengths and pace, and going for just 11 runs in his second three-over spell.
Rabada was magnificent, again, and along with Morkel set the tone for the South African performance after the rain interruption.
India scored just 89 runs in the last 15.4 overs of their innings – less than a run-a-ball.
Backing up the bowling was some excellent fielding, with JP Duminy’s ground fielding a highlight and Markram adding to the recent one-handed catches ‘hall of fame’ with a stunning grab at cover to help get rid of Hardik Pandya.
Were it not for former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (42 off 43 balls, 3x4, 1x6), India would not have surpassed 250.
Rabada and Ngidi claimed two wickets each, while Morkel and Morris picked up one apiece, in a performance that would have done much to restore the confidence of the Proteas bowlers.
The fifth ODI will be played in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.
* Meanwhile, a fundraising drive which took place during Saturday’s ‘Pink ODI’ saw over R1.6 million donated. All the money will go to the Breast Care Unit at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital.