AB de Villiers paced his innings perfectly to score his 21st ODI century and guide South Africa to the highest total ever scored in Kanpur. De Villiers had a solid start to build on thanks to Hashim Amla and Fad du Plessis, and worked his way through a quiet middle period before attacking with Farhaan Behardien at the end.
On a slow surface, India’s bowling tactics were pulled out of shape by an injury to R Ashwin, who bowled one over in the Powerplay and was then held back by MS Dhoni, who rotated through his other slower bowlers. Ashwin returned to bowl 3.4 overs but then picked up a side strain and could only deliver one more over later on. Their seamers were punished as they lost their lengths towards the end, although it did not always look like they would struggle that much.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar found some early movement to test Quinton de Kock outside the off stump, which proved a stern examination of the returning opening batsman’s confidence. Part of the reason de Kock was dropped during the New Zealand series was because of his lapses outside off and de Kock showed greater awareness on comeback. He watched the first few balls move away from him, tried to reach for a few and then moved towards off stump to meet the ball, resulting in back to back to boundaries to boost his confidence.
Amla had watched de Kock’s settling in fairly quietly, pouncing only when presented with the odd short ball, which India’s opening bowlers used a little too much in the opening encounters. They were searching for an early breakthrough which only came when R Ashwin was introduced in the ninth over and drew de Kock forward with a perfect offspinner to have him caught at slip. De Kock’s comeback innings lasted 33 balls and he scored 29 runs, which may not have been an ideal result for him, but South Africa’s 45-run opening stand gave them a steady enough start.
Ashwin was taken out of the attack despite his early success as Dhoni turned to Amit Mishra, Stuart Binny and later Suresh Raina. For the most part, they were disciplined but they had lapses and the boundaries they conceded allowed Amla and Faf du Plessis to build slowly. The pair also rotated strike well so although the going was laboured, they were at least going. Their partnership had reached 59 and Amla had racked up 1,000 runs in ODI cricket this year when he was beaten by a change of pace from Mishra, who went faster, and was bowled by a ball that deflected off his pad and onto the stumps.
That brought de Villiers to the crease, but the expected fireworks came from du Plessis at first. He was on 33 when Amla was dismissed and raced to his half-century with the first six of the innings, off Raina.
With the milestone over, things quietened down and Dhoni brought Ashwin back in the 28th over. Two balls into the third over of his second spell, Ashwin fielded a ball off his own bowling and two balls after that, had to leave the field with what was looked like a side strain. Virat Kohli completed the over and Dhoni was left with a conundrum as he sought to make up Ashwin’s overs.
He reintroduced Umesh Yadav at the start of the 34th over and move paid off. Umesh had du Plessis trapped lbw with a ball that jagged back into him with a hint of reverse-swing.
David Miller kept his place at No. 5 in this match, after he was demoted in the T20s, but he was unable to find form again. After 22 fairly uncomfortable deliveries, he charged Mishra but was beaten by the legbreak and was well out of his ground when Dhoni stumped him.
Binny had to bowl more than he may have expected, especially after Ashwin returned to the field but – as per the rules – could not bowl until he had spent the same amount time on the field as he had off it, and then had to leave the field again after just one over. De Villiers and JP Duminy targeted Binny, taking 21 runs off the 45th over to trigger the final flourish.
Dhoni pulled them back for a delivery when he brought Umesh back again and Duminy slashed at a wide ball to get an edge but de Villiers had timed his acceleration perfectly. With Behardien providing the perfect foil, as he did in the T20 series to Duminy, de Villiers got going and pressure was transferred back onto the Indian bowlers.
Umesh missed his yorker and de Villiers sent the resultant full toss to long-on, Bhuvneshwar missed his yorker and de Villiers sent the resultant full toss over his head. De Villiers took his strike rate from 60.00 off his first 30 balls to 134.00 by the time he had faced 70. He was on 98 with two balls left in the innings and reached his century off the final delivery with yet another six.
South Africa scored 65 runs off the last five overs and India will be required to pul off the highest successful run chase at this venue to stop them from taking the series lead.
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