NEW DELHI: The Arun Jaitley Stadium here barely had half its capacity crowd for the deciding ODI between India and South Africa on Tuesday. There were fears of a shortened game, following the incessant rain on the previous four days. One did get a shortened game but it had nothing to do with the weather. South Africa’s inadequacies against spin on a damp pitch resulted in the tourists folding for 99 in 27.1 overs after India captain Shikhar Dhawan won the toss and elected to field.
The series was widely perceived as a ‘second-string’ Indian team, resembling the composition of an Ind ‘A’ team, taking on a full-strength South African team. When Shreyas Iyer hit Marco Jansen for a six over long off to win the series 2-1, after Shubman Gill fell for a 57-ball 49, with seven wickets and 30.5 overs to spare, India’s ominous depth in resources came to the fore. If anything, the veteran Dhawan would have liked to get more runs than his scores of 4, 13 and 8 in the series.
While this has been a graduation process for most players playing in the series, there are players who are fighting to reclaim their spots in India’s first choice XI.

For Kuldeep Yadav, who was a first-choice spinner three years ago, every opportunity is like a shot at redemption. Injuries and indifferent form had pushed down to the reserve pool of players. On Tuesday, he continued his comeback trail by wiping out the lower half of the South African batting returning figures of 4/18 in 4.1 overs. His guile has always troubled South Africans. Tuesday was no different. If anything, he would have loved a bowl earlier than Shahbaz Ahmed to test himself against the top order.
Similarly, Washington Sundar, forever battling freak injuries, sent out a reminder why he has been one of the most consistent spinners with the new ball with his spell of 2/15 in four overs.

The pitch was always going to be overloaded with moisture having been under covers for better part of the past week. Dhawan wasted little time and handed the ball to Washington to start the day’s proceedings. With his 11th ball, having beaten Quinton de Kock’s outside edge with sharp turn and bounce, Washington lured South African lineups most prolific batter into a drive with flighted delivery outside the off-stump which ended in the hands of Avesh Khan at short third-man.

There on, it looked like the South African batter were dragging themselves to fight out on this pitch. Mohammed Siraj continued his good form bowling a tight aggressive line. The way Janeman Malan hooked Siraj down Avesh’s throat at long-leg after scrapping for a 27-ball 15, it looked like the South Africans were disinterested. For South Africa, the only incentive from this series was to win it 3-0 and stay in the hunt of directly qualifying for next year’s ODI World Cup. That incentive died with the loss in Ranchi two nights ago.
This is South Africa’s first team and it was obvious they must have switched their focus to the T20 World Cup in Australia. After all, they play their first warmup game in a week’s time. It was more about preserving their players for the mega event. The lack of intent was glaring through their innings. Regular captain Temba Bavuma, Keshav Maharaj (unwell) and pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada all sat out as a precautionary measure.
What followed was a succession of poor shot selection, most of the batters playing back to full deliveries off the spinners. Heinrich Klassen was the only one who looked like getting a move on with his 42-ball 34 but his propensity to play everything off the backfoot did him in when left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed bowled him while playing cut shot.
The Indian selectors and team management would be happy the reserve pool is well-oiled and is capable of taking on world-class opponents.

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By Dipak

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