South Africa’s one-day players have talked a lot recently about showing fight.
But for all the pre-match talk of stretching the series to the final match at Centurion on Friday, the home side limped to a 73-run loss at St George’s Park for India to clinch a historic first-ever series win in South Africa.
The visitors now have an unassailable 4-1 lead, and will look to drive home their superiority with another victory at SuperSport Park, which will ensure that Virat Kohli’s side maintain their World No 1 ODI ranking.
They certainly do deserve that lofty status for the visitors were simply streets ahead of the Proteas in this series. South Africa lost their last six wickets for just 35 runs to capitulate to 202 all out in pursuit of 275, which was symbolic of how the series has played out.
It was the Proteas’ arch-nemeses Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal who once again struck the telling blows for India.
Yadav claimed 4/57 and Chahal 2/43 to bring the contest to a close in a hurry. India’s spin twins were utterly dominant throughout ,with the duo finishing with 30 wickets in the series.
South Africa required one of their misfiring top-order to match India’s vaunted top three, and Hashim Amla appeared to be on his way after Ajinkya Rahane offered him a lifeline on 38.
But Amla (71) could not fully capitalise as he set on a suicidal single after reaching his half-century.
Hardik Pandya, who had already claimed the big wickets of JP Duminy and AB de Villiers, was not going to give Amla a second reprieve and threw down the stumps at the bowler’s end, which ultimately doused the Proteas’ fire.
Captain Aiden Markram (32), David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen (39) all got starts, but could not convert it into anything substantial
Once again this was in contrast to India. The visitors’ batsmen have taken responsibility throughout, with captain Virat Kohli striking two centuries and opener Shikhar Dhawan also reaching three figures.
On Tuesday, it was the turn of fellow opener Rohit Sharma. The flamboyant right-hander has struggled in South Africa, with a top score of just 43 prior to the visit to Port Elizabeth, but yesterday was his turn to tame the Proteas attack.
Sharma struck a classy 115 off 126 balls (11x4, 4x6) that set up India’s winning total. He certainly made amends for being involved in both the runs outs of Kohli (36) and Rahane (8).
Shreyas Iyer (30), though, stuck around with Sharma long enough to put together a 50-run partnership for the fifth wicket that pushed India closer to a defendable total.
It was required because the visitors also suffered a mini-collapse, losing four wickets for 29 runs.
Young seamer Lungi Ngidi was the catalyst as the 21-year-old claimed career-best figures of 4/51. India only added 55 runs in the final 10 overs.
Ultimately, though, it was all in vain as South Africa’s batting unit once again succumbed to trickery of India’s wrist-spinning duo and Pandya’s brilliance upfront.