Virat Kohli steered India to an eight-wicket win at Centurion as well as an emphatic 5-1 series result.
India – and Kohli in particular – deserve plaudits for maintaining a high standard of accuracy and intensity across the dead rubber at Centurion. The visitors clinched the series when they smashed South Africa by 73 runs in Port Elizabeth last Tuesday. Incredibly, they were still hungry enough and good to win by a resounding margin in the sixth and final ODI.
The seamers and the wrist-spinners combined brilliantly to bowl South Africa out inside 47 overs. That performance set India up for another big win, and a fine finish to the series. They clearly deserve their No 1 ODI ranking.
Kohli stole the show with his sparkling knock of 129 off 96 balls, though. He smashed his first 50 off 36 deliveries. He pushed on to 71, and in doing so became the first player to score 500 runs in a six-game ODI series.
Kohli hit Imran Tahir down the ground for four to bring up his 35th ODI century. From there, he worked hard to ensure that he was still at the crease when India surpassed a modest target of 204. The India skipper hit a boundary to win the game in the 33rd over.
Unsurprisingly, Kohli was named Man of the Match, and Man of the Series. The contribution of the bowlers in this game and indeed across the six matches, however, must be acknowledged.
Kohli knew what he was doing when he put South Africa into bat earlier in the day. Shardul Thakur, in for Bhuvneshwar Kumar, made an immediate impression when he removed Hashim Amla and then Aiden Markram.
The Proteas recovered, with AB de Villiers and Khaya Zondo playing the hosts into a strong position. Then the spinners started to get into their work. Yuzvendra Chahal knocked over De Villiers with a quicker delivery. Zondo went on to make his first ODI half-century, but was subsequently dismissed by Chahal.
Thakur claimed the final wicket and finished with figures of 4-52. The Proteas bowlers were always going to struggle to defend 204 on this type of wicket.
The Proteas had some early success, with Lungi Ngidi claiming the wickets of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. After that, however, India moved up a gear.
Kohli scored his runs at a rapid rate. He was well supported by Ajinkya Rahane, and together they put on 126 runs for the third wicket.
In the end, it was all too easy for India. They will take plenty of momentum and confidence into the T20I series,
The Proteas have much to ponder. Their batsmen battled against the spinners, Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, throughout the series, and their bowlers had no answer to Kohli and the India top-order.
SA 204 (46.5 overs) – Khaya Zondo 54, Andile Phehlukwayo 34, Shardul Thakur 4-52, Yuzvendra Chahal 2-38
India 206-2 (32.1 overs) – Virat Kohli 129 not out, Ajinkya Rahane 34 not out, Lungi Ngidi 2-54
India won the game by eight wickets and the series 5-1
South Africa: 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Aiden Markram (c), 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Khaya Zondo, 5 Fahraan Behardien, 6 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 7 Chris Morris, 8 Andile Phehlukwayo, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Imran Tahir, 11 Lungi Ngidi
India: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (c), 4 Ajinkya Rahane, 5 Shreyas Iyer, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal.
Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix