A stray dog that strolled into the field at Ferozeshah Kotla on Tuesday afternoon showed more determination to stay on than the entire South Africa batting line-up that crumbled like a pack of cards to fall for their fourth lowest total – 99 – in One-day Internationals in Delhi, and lose against a second-string India side by seven wickets.
The Proteas, who had won the first match but lost the second, had to win the decider to not just clinch the bilateral series but also keep hopes of direct qualification to the 2023 50-over World Cup alive.
However, it seemed that their mind was more on the T20 World Cup in Australia that begins later this month instead of the ongoing ODI and their qualification for next year’s 50-over World Cup. Whereas the main India team has already reached Australia, even played a warm-up game in Perth, following last week’s T20I series, the South Africans have been playing and struggling here against an India reserve side.
The visiting side, captained by David Miller on Tuesday in the absence of regular captain Temba Bavuma and vice-captain Keshav Maharaj, kept losing wickets at regular intervals as the spineless show brought on cheers from the crowd of Indian supporters.
Due to uncertainty caused by incessant rains over the past few days, which continued till Tuesday morning in the Capital, the stadium couldn’t witness a capacity crowd. Many preferred comfort of their homes instead of risking themselves under cloudy skies.
However, those who attended the game witnessed sub-standard batting devoid of application as the Indian bowlers tightened the noose in the first few overs itself.
Off-spinner Washington Sundar (2/15 in four overs) got rid of Quinton de Kock (6), who had returned to form in the preceding T20I series, before pacer Mohammed Siraj (2/17 in five overs) unleashed short deliveries to dismiss Janneman Malan and Reeza Hendricks.
South Africa were tottering at 26/3 in 10 overs and it was an uphill task from thereon.
Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen toiled a bit to bring the innings back on track but left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed, who is playing his debut international series, got rid of Markram, having him caught behind.
Miller, the man who can turn around things with a blistering innings at any stage of a game, started well but was bowled for seven by Sundar to be the fifth South African wicket to fall.
And when Klaasen, who was the innings top-scorer with 34, fell as the seventh wicket with the total on 93, the writing was on the wall.
Kuldeep Yadav, who picked batsmen No. 7, 8, 9 and 10 to mop up the tail returned as the most successful bowler with 4/18 in 4.1 overs.
The India batsmen knocked off the target in just 19.1 overs to seal the ODI series 2-1. Opener Shubman Gill top-scored with 49 off 57 balls. Skipper Shikhar Dhawan, who played a key role in guiding the obstinate stray dog off the field after it had intruded the field of play during the South African innings, made eight while Shreyas Iyer remained unbeaten on 28.
The loss has hurt South Africa’s chances of qualifying for the 2023 ODI World Cup directly. They may now have to play the qualifiers with lesser teams next year to make it to that World Cup.
But with the T20 World Cup up next for this squad this month, they might not be thinking of the 50-over World Cup just yet and would be in a rush to leave for Down Under.
Brief scores: South Africa 99 all out in 27.1 overs (H Klaasen 34, K Yadav 4/18, W Sundar 2/15, M Siraj 2/17) lost to India 105/3 in 19.1 overs (S Gill 49, S Iyer 28 not out, B Fortuin 1/20, L Ngidi 1/21) by seven wickets
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