For all the talk of India’s batting blowing hot and cold in the last two games, their bowling wasn’t going great guns too. Standing on the brink of conceding an unassailable lead to South Africa though, they came together to dismiss South Africa for 131, winning the third T20I by 48 runs on Tuesday to keep the five-match series alive.
Everything worked for India’s bowlers on a pitch that had extra bounce for pacers but also helped spinners to slow down the game. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was again precise and economical. Axar Patel gave a much-needed early breakthrough when he induced South Africa captain Temba Bavuma to play a lofted drive to a fuller delivery but it came off the toe-end of his bat. Harshal Patel played a stellar part too, deceiving David Miller with a slower ball that he couldn’t time well and ended up checking his drive and chipping a catch to Ruturaj Gaikwad at cover.
The crucial blows were dealt by Chahal though. Under the pump after a deflating bowling effort (1/49) in Cuttack, Chahal was mixing up his deliveries brilliantly, slipping in the occasional flipper to keep South Africa on their toes after Rishabh Pant put down a difficult chance. A drifter finally brought him success—pitching on leg, spinning and bouncing to take a thick outside edge of Rassi van der Dussen’s bat. Dwaine Pretorius’s dismissal was almost a replay as he got a huge edge trying to play Chahal fine. With Heinrich Klaasen’s wicket South Africa’s hopes of mounting a comeback were extinguished. Chahal tossed up this delivery, enticing Klaasen to go for the big hit but all he could manage was a miscue that ballooned to a back-pedalling Axar at extra cover.
South Africa never looked settled in their chase, something India corrected this time after being put into bat for the third consecutive match. Reaching 97/1 in 10 overs, this was easily India’s most composed start in the three T20Is. Possibly one innings away from being discarded, Gaikwad scored a career-reviving 57 off 35 balls by not waiting to attack South Africa. An inside edge off Kagiso Rabada nearly took him out but Gaikwad shook off the nerves by flicking him for a six over midwicket. The real assault came in the next over when he carted Anrich Nortje for five consecutive fours, propelling India to 48/0 after five overs.
As long as Gaikwad was finding the boundaries, Ishan Kishan was happy playing second fiddle. The transition happened seamlessly after Gaikwad’s soft dismissal as Kishan stepped up and cleared the infield with ease. Kishan and Shreyas Iyer fell in the space of five deliveries though, leaving India suddenly rudderless. With six overs left in the innings, India were not digging their heels in as South African pacers started bowling wider lines.
Rishabh Pant was again dismissed trying to go for a lofted shot, his bottom hand coming off the bat. Dinesh Karthik fell miscuing a scoop but Hardik Pandya stood tall, digging out block hole deliveries to give India a fluent finish. Still, just 51 runs off the last seven overs means India have a lot of work to do on their batting.