JOHANNESBURG – There was a marked difference in bowling between the Proteas and India in the visitors’ 28-run victory in the first T20 international at the Wanderers on Sunday.
One seemed possessed of a plan and the ability to execute that particular plan.
The other didn’t seem to have a strategy and if there was a plan, well, it was horrendously implemented and the coaching staff might want to have a word or two with the bowlers as a result.
The Indian plan was based on simplicity. Bowl at or around off-stump, with the odd bouncer and pray on the patience of the South African batsmen – of which there wasn’t very much early on.
The South African plan, well, err…
As far as the Proteas were concerned, it was a case of over-using the bouncer as they conceded 203/5 off 20 overs. This was a ploy that first began to emerge during the Test match here three weeks ago.
On a pitch that the ICC reckoned was too helpful for the seam bowlers, South Africa utilised the bouncer excessively, when pitching up was the way to go.
It’s a habit that’s continued throughout the One-Day series, the outcome of which was a dismal one for the hosts.
And it’s still hanging around here at the start of the T20 series.
In addition, when the bowlers have changed lengths to something fuller, then the lines go awry offering the Indians too much width.
Sunday was a horror show, certainly in the first 10 overs, with South Africa conceding 110 runs.
India, led by a barnstorming 72 (39 balls, 10x4, 2x6) by Shikhar Dhawan, did as their hearts desired.
Half-volleys were flicked off the legs – if they were bowled wide of off-stump, the ball was driven.
The inconsistent bowling led to ragged fielding; balls were knocked on, and on two occasions Behardien dropped catches, the second of which was the proverbial dolly, giving Virat Kohli of all people a second chance when the Indian captain was on 10.
Matters improved marginally for the South Africans from the halfway point of the Indian innings.
Jon-Jon Smuts and Andile Phehlukwayo helped rein in India’s scoring rate, mostly because they adopted a simple plan – bowling relatively straight and in Phehlukwayo’s case smartly mixing up his pace.
It meant the Indians had to hit in one region, and that JP Duminy could set a field. It’s thus strange that the South African captain saw fit to only bowl them for two overs each – in which they conceded a combined 30 runs.
The iota of pressure they created helped the rest and they were able to keep India to a manageable target.
However, the simplicity of India’s bowling proved too much for the two most senior batsmen in the South African side.
Duminy was tied down and after scoring three, top-edged his seventh ball to Suresh Raina off Bhuvneshwar’s bowling, while Hardik Pandya accounted for David Miller – who must be starting to run out of time at international level – who also top-edged the ball to Shikhar Dhawan.
Hope was created through an excellent fourth-wicket partnership between Reeza Hendricks and Farhaan Behardien – the two form players in the domestic T20 Challenge this season – who put on 81.
The pair ran well between the wickets and manipulated the ball nicely in the gaps, briefly causing India some concern, as on occasion they also found the boundary.
But the required run rate never dropped below 10, so India knew a wicket would always see the game turn back in their favour.
That duly arrived when Yuzvendra Chahal, with his last ball, had Behardien caught on the long-on boundary for 39 (27 balls, 3x4, 2x6).
The excellent Bhuvneshwar returned to wrap up the match, dismissing Hendricks for a very well played 70 (50 balls, 8x4, 1x6) as the Proteas finished on 175/9.
The leader of the Indian attack finished with 5/24 in four overs.
Besides securing his side a win in the opening match of the series, he handed out some more lessons for the SA bowlers to learn from.
Hopefully someone puts together a clip for them to study in the next few days before game two in Centurion on Wednesday (6pm start).