Cape Town - AB De Villiers and Virat Kohli went head to head in a
memorable display of batsmanship at Chennai on Thursday before India triumphed
by 35 runs in the fourth ODI of the Freedom Series to square matters at 2-2.
The decider will be played at Mumbai’s Wankede Stadium on Sunday.
De Villiers contributed 112 off 107 balls (10 fours and 2
sixes) and Kohli 138 off 140 balls (6 fours and 5 sixes).
It was De Villiers' 22nd ODI century and he thus claimed the SA record, going ahead of Herschelle Gibbs
and Hashim Amla. It was also his fifth against India which is also a South
African record, taking him ahead of Gary Kirsten and Quinton de Kock.
India won what turned out to be an important toss as the
pitch got slower and more responsive to spin as the match progressed. It was
the fourth time in a row that the match was won by the side batting first which
suggests that Sunday’s toss could again be important.
That South Africa got so close to victory was a tribute to
the genius of De Villiers on a surface on which all the other
visiting batsmen struggled.
The key moments in South Africa’s defeat were their inability to take wickets in the middle of the innings
and a crucial spell of 40 balls in the South African innings when the
Proteas lost the wickets of De Kock, Faf du Plessis and David Miller in quick
succession to the spin of Harbhajan Singh and Axar Patel.
With the Proteas being a batsmen light with Chris Morris and
Aaron Phangiso coming in as the replacements for Morne Morkel and JP Duminy, they
could not afford to lose so many wickets so early. At the fall of the fifth
wicket De Villiers no longer had the support of a specialist batsman to rotate
When De Villiers was dismissed, the target had been reduced
to 67 off 33 balls and it says a lot about his status as a batsman that nobody
was going to write off South Africa’s chances until he was dismissed.
Remarkably, out of De Villiers' 22 centuries, 18 have been in
winning causes and another in a washed out match.
Kohli set up India’s total of 299/8 with his partnerships of
104 for the third wicket with Ajinkya Rahane and 127 for the fourth with
back-in-form Suresh Raina. By contrast the highest South African partnership
was only 56 between De Villiers and Farhaan Behardien.
The South African bowlers did an excellent job up front
keeping India to 43/2 in the opening power play and then excelling at the back
end when they restricted India to 69/5 in the last 10 with Dale Steyn and
Kagiso Rabada (3 wickets apiece) being outstanding in the last five when India
But the damage was done in the middle overs when India
scored 197 in the middle 30 overs for the loss of only one wicket.
The man of the match award went to Kohli who, like De
Villiers, suffered severely from cramp in the extremely testing climatic
conditions and was not able to field in the South African innings.
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