Superb India clinch first ever series in South Africa
Indian team led by an inspirational Virat Kohli on Thuesday scripted history by winning its first ever series across formats on the South African soil as they crushed South Africa by 73 runs thereby taking an unassailable 4-1 lead in the six-match ODI series.
No Indian men's side since its first tour in South Africa back in 1992, has ever won a series across any format. They did win a one-off T20 match in 2006 — their first ever shortest format but it was a single match event.
The team under Kohli achieved which neither among Mohammed Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid or Mahendra Singh Dhioni could ever accomplish — win a full fledged series in the Rainbow Nation.
"Very pleased, another complete performance from us. Only one team had the pressure of losing this series and we knew that. It's history and the guys have worked hard for it. Every since the third Test in Johannesburg it's been a good time for us. It's been a collective effort to create history," an ecstatic Kohli said after the match.
"When three guys at the top are being consistent, the guys who get an opportunity every now and then might not click. After this series is wrapped up we'll sit down and think about where to improve. For now, 4-1 feels great. We want to win 5-1 for sure, but yeah, there might a scenario for a few more guys to get a chance next match. But the ultimate priority is to win and we'll do anything we can to win," the skipper added.
After a series of low scores, Rohit Sharma came good when it ultimately mattered as he scored 115 in India's respectable total of 274 for 7 on a sluggish St Georege's Park wicket.
South Africa did put up a fight before wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav (4/57 in 10 overs) and Yuzvendra Chahal (2/43 in 9.2 overs) found their bearings after a rare off-day to polish off the lower-order in a jiffy as the home team were shot out for 201 in 42.2 overs.
One can't ignore Hardik Pandya's contribution as his all-ropund skill sets came into good effect getting 2 for 30 with seamers and then a run-out with a direct throw off in-form Hashim Amla (71), which decisively swung the match in India's favour.
For Kohli, this is a significant milestone in his three and half years at the helm as this is also his first series win against a top nation on their soil.
While this wasn't the best South African team on the field but coming back after losing the Test series takes some heart which the 'Men in Blue' showed.
The two wrist spinners once again proved to be a revelation as none save Amla could read them properly from their wrists. Earlier, Rohit ended his prolonged bad patch with a fine hundred as India scored a respectable 274 for 7 after being put into bat.
Despite Rohit's 115 off 126 balls and first on South African soil, India failed to consolidate during the final 10 overs as they scored only 55 runs after being comfortably placed at 219 for 4.
"I'm glad we could put up the runs on the board and come out and defend it. It's been the hallmark of our team that once you get in, you make it count at the top 3. We face the most deliveries. It was my day today," said Man of the Match Rohit.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's inability to push the run-rate during death overs was once again exposed as he managed only 13 off 17 balls and the dot balls that he played only increased pressure on lower order. It was Bhuvneshwar Kumar's 19 off 20 balls that took India past 270-run mark.
The highlight of the Indian innings was Rohit's century — which is his 17th overall and 15th as an opener. He is now third behind Sachin Tendulkar (45 out of 49) and Sourav Ganguly (19 out of 22) with number of centuries as opener.
After being criticised for his poor show in the series till date and a pitiable average of 11.45 in 12 ODIs (in SA) with a highest score of only 23, Rohit finally played an innings of substance that had 11 boundaries and four sixes.
He was shaky at times but the customary elegance was there to be seen as he stepped out to hit Kagiso Rabada over long on for a six.
Looking to overcome his poor run of form then, Rohit started off slowly against Morne Morkel (0/44 in 10 overs) and Kagiso Rabada (1/58 in 9 overs), with the former bowling out two maiden overs.
In-form Shikhar Dhawan however stroked his way to 34 off 23 balls, with eight boundaries.
India raced off the blocks as the opening duo put on 48 in just 7.2 overs. Dhawan was looking good for many more, but Rabada tied him up with some short stuff. In response, the left-hander only managed to hole out straight to deep square leg.
Rohit though had found his touch with a pulled six off Rabada in the sixth over. He was joined in the middle by Virat Kohli (36 off 54 balls, 2 fours), who played an uncharacteristic innings belying his rich form.