Faf du Plessis scored 120 as the Proteas set India a target of 270 for victory in the first ODI in Durban.
South Africa won’t be pleased with their overall batting performance. After winning the toss and opting to bat, Du Plessis would have expected more from the Proteas top six.
As it was, Quinton de Kock was the only specialist batsman, bar Du Plessis himself, who scored more than 16 runs. De Kock and Du Plessis clubbed together for the only top-order stand of substance: a partnership of 53.
On the other hand, coach Ottis Gibson and Du Plessis should be encouraged by the fight displayed during the latter stages of the innings. Du Plessis played positively yet sensibly to dig his team out of a hole. He found some support in the shape of Chris Morris, and that 74-run partnership set the platform for a competitive total.
De Kock won’t want to watch his dismissal again. The left-handed batsman was just beginning to build some momentum when he missed a straighter delivery by leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal.
De Kock turned towards the change room immediately after hearing the appeal. He didn’t wait for the umpire to signal out – which the official did – and he didn’t ask the non-striker, Du Plessis, if a review was necessary. It proved a costly mistake, as subsequent replays showed that the ball was sliding past the leg stump.
South Africa lost five wickets for 51 runs during that period. Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, and Kedar Jadhav troubled the hosts with a battery of turning deliveries. Aiden Markram, JP Duminy and David Miller perished after failing to adjust to the spin and bounce.
Morris came to the wicket at the end of the 28th over, with the score at 134-5. The all-rounder proceeded to play a crucial knock, scoring 37 off 43 balls and supporting Du Plessis for more than 13 overs.
Yadav checked the Proteas’ charge when he bowled Morris in the 41st over. Suddenly the hosts were down to their last recognised batsman in Du Plessis and all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo.
Du Plessis went on to surpass 100 for the ninth time in ODIs. It took the Proteas skipper 101 balls to reach the three-figure mark.
More importantly, Du Plessis and Phehlukwayo shifted gear in the latter overs to propel South Africa towards a competitive total. India missed a big opportunity when Du Plessis hit the ball in the air and was not caught in the deep.
Ajinkya Rahane, wearing a pair of sunglasses on his cap instead of on his face, was momentarily blinded by the sun and the ball fell to the ground untouched. Du Plessis added 18 more runs to his total. The captain and Phehlukwayo put on 58 runs in those last nine overs.
Batting will be a challenge on this low, slow pitch later this evening. South Africa’s premier leg-spinner Imran Tahir should have a key role to play for the hosts. Rain is also expected later tonight, and the conditions could well help the bowling side.
SA 269-8 (50 overs) – Faf du Plessis 120, Chris Morris 37, Kuldeep Yadav 3-34, Yuzvendra Chahal 2-45
India need 270 to win
South Africa: 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis (c), 4 Aiden Markram, 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Andile Phehlukwayo, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir
India: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (c.), 4 Ajinkya Rahane, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Jasprit Bumrah, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Photo: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images