) Tony de Zorzi’s unbeaten maiden ODI century saw South Africa clinch the must-win ODI against India, and the hosts did it with aplomb by reaching the 212-run target by losing two wickets in the second of the three-match series at Saint George’s Park here on Tuesday.
This win kept South Africa’s hopes alive in the series having lost the first ODI at the Wanderers in Johannesburg last Sunday.
There absolutely was no turn for Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav after the South African openers blunted India’s pace attack led by Mukesh Kumar and Atshdeep Singh in the first 10 overs which witnessed a lot of plays and misses.
Reeza Hendricks was lucky twice as he was dropped by Ruturaj Gaikwad at second slip. Subsequently, Zorzi and Hendricks settled in, and from there on it was one-way traffic as they put 130 runs for the first wicket in 27.5 overs.
The pair stitched up the highest opening partnership in ODIs in Gqerehba smashing the 129-run stand between Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke in 2008-09.
Soon Zorzi reached his maiden ODI ton, scoring an unbeaten 119 off 122 balls with 9 boundaries and 6 sixes, and guided South Africa despite the losses of Hendricks (52 off 81) and Rassie van der Dussen (36 off 51 balls).
Arshdeep got rid of Hendricks top-edging a short ball to Mukesh at fine leg. Dussen departed for a Rinku Singh delivery.
Earlier, India were skittled out for a paltry 211 on a difficult wicket.
Seamers Nandre Burger (3/30) and Beuran Hendricks (2/34) were among the wickets after sharing five wickets between them.
For India, Sai Sudarshan and captain KL Rahul played meaningful innings by notching up the fifties.
The left-handed Sudarshan made 62 runs in the classical mould after cracking an unbeaten half-century in the first ODI. Rahul scored 56 from 64 balls. Other than them, no other batsmen made any sizable contributions.
India was ambling across at 114/2 but lost the remaining 8 wickets for 97 runs as South Africa exploited the sluggish nature of the pitch by putting brakes on the scoring rate and enforcing errors from them.
Put into bat, India had a very poor start with South Africa seamers taking advantage of the new ball which was bouncing off the pitch.
Opener Ruturak Gaikwad was trapped leg-before for 4 off Burger’s very second ball, but Sudarshan and Tilak Varma (10) soaked the initial pressure created by South African seamers.
While Tilak struggled to find his feet, Sudarshan exhibited his classical batsmanship with his off drives and pulls, before India reached 46/1 in the first Powerplay.
The struggling Tilak was bounced out by Burger, bringing captain Rahul into the middle. The runs dried up as India could manage to score 10 from 11 to 16 overs.
Sudarshan also went into the shell until spinner Keshav Maharaj (2/51) was employed by Proteas captain Aiden Markram. The slog-swept spinner for a six over midwicket.
Sudarshan completed his second half-century after taking a risky single in the 20th over.
After a sedate start, Rahul punished Wiaan Mulder, Lizaad Williams (1/49) and Markram (1/28) to take India past the 100 runs mark.
Williams broke the 68 runs stand by removing Sudarshan who edged one to Heinrich Klassen behind the stumps off a snorter.
Sanju Samson squandered the opportunity as he chopped a shot onto his timbers off Hendricks, leaving India at 136/4.
Rahul reached his fifty from 60 balls by taking on Maharaj and soon was plucked by Burger to savour his third wicket. Debutant Rinku Singh was stumped off Maharaj after scoring 17 from 14 balls with 2 boundaries and a six, and suddenly India was reduced to 169/6.
Maharaj then removed Kuldeep Yadav (1) and Markram sent back Axar Patel for 7. Avesh Khan (9) and Arshdeep Singh (18) guided India past 200 runs mark.