India vs South Africa, 2nd T20I: India go to Centurion with foot on hosts’ throats

Without the rain intervention in the fourth ODI at the Wanderers, it could well have been eight on the spin for India. The winning sequence that started in the third Test at Johannesburg has rolled along — Test victory followed by five wins in the ODIs and a 1-0 lead in the three-match T20 series.

About a month ago, when India lost the second Test at Centurion to concede the three-match series, a comeback seemed impossible. Virat Kohli’s team had become a subject of sarcasm in the post-match press conference at SuperSport Park, with questions being asked about the inconsistency in team selections and also the true merit of India’s No. 1 Test rankings based on serial home victories. Virat Kohli returned the ‘compliment’ after completing a 5-1 ODI series hiding.

T20 is the most unpredictable format of the game. Things can change in just two-three deliveries. But such is the level of confidence of this Indian team that they even dominated the T20 opener. Apart from Reeza Hendricks’ 50-ball 70, the hosts had very little to show for. India, meanwhile, found another hero in Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who flummoxed the South Africa batting with his knuckleball.

But more than Kumar’s five wickets and another Shikhar Dhawan charge at the top, the first T20 international was about India forcing South Africa to play into their hands. Ruffled by India’s command, the hosts tried the short ball as a counter-ploy, only to see their plans go haywire. Over 66 per cent of their deliveries had been dug in short, and they conceded 20 fours and seven sixes in 20 overs.

A quagmire of uncertainty

So, the second T20I at Centurion on Wednesday arrives at a time when the Saffers seem to have caught in the quagmire of uncertainty. Their selectors are being criticised over Aiden Markram’s elevation to stand-in skipper. Their top order looks iffy and middle order brittle. Bowlers, too, are inconsistent.

From the first Test to the first T20 international, the Indian bowlers have accounted for 122 Proteas scalps. South Africa, on the other hand, have taken 92 Indian wickets. After the Test series, they have failed to bowl out the tourists even once. And unless they regain their mojo at the soonest, India would run away with the T20 series win as well.

John Wright in his book, Indian Summers, had written about how the Indian players’ body language used to change as soon as they took a flight to overseas. That was the turn of the century; Wright’s bedding in period as India coach. By the time he signed off in 2005, India had won Test series in Pakistan, drew with England and the all-conquering Australia in their lairs and also reached the 2003 World Cup final. A team that Sourav Ganguly bestrode, with Wright providing the backroom assistance, had set the benchmark for success on foreign soil.

Kohli’s team is still a work in progress. But if they win the T20 series in South Africa on the heels of their ODI series triumph, they would somewhat redefine overseas success, albeit in the shorter formats. Add to this the latest ICC rankings, which gave India another scope to cheer about with a double whammy. Kohli has crossed 900 rating points (909) to comfortably sit atop the ODIs batting table, while Jasprit Bumrah’s meteoric rise and 787 points has made him the No. 1, along with Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, among the bowlers.

Both Kohli and Bumrah have had been immense over the past one month. But from Jo’Burg to Jo’Burg – the third Test to the first T20 internationals via six ODIs – a collective effort has made this turnaround possible.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to create some history and after 25 years. Everyone’s proud of the change room and it’s a collective effort and something we wanted to do badly as a team,” Kohli told Rohit Sharma in an interview for after the ODI series.


Source by indianexpress…