The Proteas’ ODI tour of India has been cancelled in the scramble to deal with the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving us to cast our minds back into the not-so-distant past to a day in 2015 when South Africa ruled the Wankhede Stadium.
The 2015 tour to India is often remembered for the disastrous Test series contested on rank turners to the detriment of what was an excellent ODI series that came before.
Mumbai hosted the climax of the ODI series, with the Proteas and India coming into the match level at 2-2. Twice South Africa had taken the series lead, but twice India had responded by levelling matters.
The contests were billed as a battle between AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli and, sure enough, both men had their moments in the sun during the series.
De Villiers must have been licking his chops when he called the toss correctly and elected to bat in the decisive match of the series. The pitch was an absolute road, and the Indian bowling attack had a hint of makeshift about it. India coach Ravi Shastri would later lay into the groundsman, but he might not have complained had his team got first use of the stark surface.
The Proteas came out with intent; surprisingly, it was Hashim Amla who led the early charge. Amla raced to 23 off 12 balls before the 13th surprised him from back of a length. Amla had plastered the India bowlers for five boundaries in his short stay at the crease.
It didn’t take long for Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis to resume the punishment. The wicketkeeper-batsman got stuck right back into Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Still learning his trade at the time, the match proved a harsh lesson for Kumar, who got taken for more than 100 by the Proteas.
De Kock flew to his second century of the series as Du Plessis took his time to settle in and looked to play a big knock.
India got no relief when they saw the back of De Kock as De Villiers strode to the crease with 187 runs already on the board.
The heat of Mumbai proved more challenging to the Proteas than India’s lacklustre bowling, and Du Plessis was visibly struggling shortly after reaching his 50. De Villiers was getting into his groove, though, so a huge score was still on the cards.
Du Plessis battled his way to a superb ton, but by that time De Villiers had raced to 77 and with eight overs to go, South Africa were 316-2 and looking to break the 400-mark for the fourth time that year.
Sweltering conditions at the Wankhede eventually took their toll on Du Plessis, and he retired with 133 to his name. The Proteas battler was barely able to walk off the ground and seemed to be cramping in every muscle.
De Villiers fell in pursuit of quick runs and an overwhelming total, but David Miller guided the Proteas to their joint second-highest total in ODI cricket.
With scoreboard pressure abounding and a world-class bowling attack at their disposal, the Proteas were always favourites as India set out to chase a target of 439.
The loss of Rohit Sharma and VKohli inside the first 10 overs tipped the scales even more in the Proteas’ favour. A quick-fire partnership between Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane gave India faint hope, but Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn sparked a middle-order collapse that left Mahendra Singh Dhoni fighting a vain battle with the tail.
South Africa earned a resounding victory and sealed their very first bilateral ODI series win in India.
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