Cape Town - Morne Morkel took 3 wickets in 4 balls and Quinton de Kock scored his seventh ODI century as the Castle Lager Proteas beat India by 18 runs at Rajkot on Sunday to establish a 2-1 lead in the Freedom Series with two matches still to be played.
Morkel is now the leading wicket-taker in the series with 7 dismissals and he has played a pivotal role in the Proteas bowling strategy of using short-pitched bowling on slow-paced pitches to stop the Indian run chases according to the Cricket South Africa website.
Today’s match was a typical example with India needing 123 runs off the last 20 overs with 8 wickets in hand to achieve victory – normally this would be considered a straight forward target. But the Proteas bowled superbly between overs 30 and 40 when Imran Tahir conceded only 9 runs in 4 overs in support of Morkel and Kagiso Rabada.
India, in fact, played no fewer than 35 dot balls during this period and then Morkel stepped up the pressure when he had MS Dhoni caught at backward point in a one-over spell going into the last 10 overs.
He came back later to dismiss Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane with successive deliveries in his next over to leave India with a required run rate of 10 to the over with no specialist batsman left at the crease.
It left Dale Steyn with a very comfortable 32 runs to defend in the last over. Morkel finished with the outstanding figures of 4/38 – his best ever figures against India – to be named Man of the Match while the two spinners, Imran and JP Duminy, took the other two wickets to fall.
India had three good partnerships at the start of their innings – 41 for the first wicket between Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma (65 off 74 balls, 7 fours and 2 sixes), 72 for the second between Sharma and Kohli (77 off 99 balls, 5 fours) and 80 for the third between Kohli and Dhoni (47 off 61, 5 fours) – but they were unable to match the century partnership that De Kock and Faf du Plessis (118 in 21 overs) put together that ultimately made the difference.
De Kock, playing in his 50th ODI, made his fourth century against India (103 off 118 balls, 11 fours and a six) in only his 7th match against these opponents and thus equalled the South African record for the most centuries against India that was equalled by AB de Villiers earlier in the series and originally established by Gary Kirsten.
Du Plessis contributed 60 off 63 balls, 6 fours).
De Kock suffered from dehydration in the extreme climatic conditions and De Villiers had to stand in for him behind the stumps for the first 30 overs of the Indian innings.
De Villiers again handled his attack superbly and it has been pleasing to see the way the Proteas have done the unexpected throughout the series with Imran opening the bowling in the one match, Farhaan Behardien, who again made an invaluable contribution with the bat, being used in the first power play in the same match, and David Miller opening the batting today.
270/7 after 50 overs
De Kock 103 (118)
Du Plessis 60 (63)
Behardien 33 (36)
Singh 1/38, Mishra 1/41, Sharma 2/62
252/6 after 50 overs
Sharma 65 (74)
Kohli 77 (99)
Dhoni 47 (61)