CAPE TOWN - The Proteas can do all the research and analyse all the data they can lay their hands on. They can get all their support staff to bowl different types of spin in the nets.
But out in the middle, they remain absolutely clueless against India’s double-pronged wrist-spinners. That was the familiar script at Newlands in the third ODI on Wednesday.
India’s main source of runs was once again provided by their captain Virat Kohli, who produced an ODI masterclass in front of an appreciative Newlands crowd as the visitors scored 303/6 in their 50 overs.
And once Kohli had fully entertained, the stage was set for Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav to deliver their intoxicating leg-spinners all over again.
The duo’s command on proceedings at the moment is bordering on the ridiculous.
Chahal and Yadav claimed eight wickets between them on the night to push their series tally to 21 of the 27 South African wickets to fall to bowlers thus far in the series.
The Proteas simply have no answer to the turning ball. Both senior players and debutants are unable to read it from the hand or off the pitch, which has put India on the brink of winning their first ODI series in the Rainbow Nation.
It is hard to see them not achieving this feat in the “Pink ODI” at the Wanderers on Saturday. The fact that the Proteas have never lost when playing in pink at the Johannesburg ground will matter not a jot.
Chahal and Yadav, though, will be the first to admit that bowling with such a healthy cushion of runs to defend always makes any spinner’s job so much easier.
And for that they can thank their imperious skipper. Kohli played an innings for the ages at Newlands.
His magisterial 160 not out from 159 balls (12x4, 2x6) was built on precision, touch, delicacy.
There was also brute force, with Kohli particularly enjoying a sweet pull shot off Kagiso Rabada’s penultimate ball that sailed into the Railway Stand.
Kohli was simply on a different planet and waved his bat like a magic wand.
South Africa would have hoped that one of their senior batsmen could match, or even surpass Kohli’s brilliant efforts, if their run-chase was to prove successful.
Without senior players such as captain Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and opening batsman Quinton de Kock due to injury, that responsibility fell on the likes of Hashim Amla, JP Duminy and David Miller.
Amla and Miller, though, disappointed again, with the former departing in the first over to set the chase back immediately, while Miller’s struggles at the crease continued.
It was left to Duminy to fight a lone battle with his first half-century in 20 ODIs.
In fact, when Duminy and skipper Aiden Markram (32) were at the crease putting together a partnership of 78 runs for the second wicket, there was actually a glimmer of hope filtering through the famed old ground.
However, that was all before Chahal and Yadav were introduced into the attack.
Once they had the ball in their spinning fingers, and Yadav ripped one past the outside edge of Markram’s bat for MS Dhoni to whip off the bails, the writing was on the wall for the home side.
New wicket-keeper Heinrich Klaasen could not be expected to provide the remedy and was caught on the crease by Yadav, which set in motion a procession that continued right up until fellow debutant Lungi Ngidi was dismissed in the same manner.
South Africa had lost their last nine wickets for just 100 runs, and now head to Johannesburg with even more questions than before.