India vs South Africa: Virat Kohli the constant in smooth victory
The Virat Kohli show began even before the India skipper came out to bat. A stunning leap to pouch counterpart Quinton de Kock helped rein in the South Africa innings, and the hosts completed a seven-wicket victory with an over to spare in the second Twenty20 at the PCA Stadium on Saturday. Kohli’s 22nd T20 fifty made him the only cricketer in the world to average 50 plus in all three formats—53.14 in Tests, 60.31 in ODIs and 50.85 in T20 internationals. A fluent, unbeaten 72 off 52 balls helped complete that set as India, having restricted South Africa to 149/5, eased to 151/3 in 19 overs.
The only jarring note came from Rishabh Pant. Already cautioned by the skipper, coach Ravi Shastri, and then new batting coach Vikram Rathour asking the young wicketkeeper not to get ‘careless’ pushing the boundaries of playing ‘fearless’ cricket. His tendency to play the hoick over square-leg has led to his untimely dismissals a few times, and Pant’s eyes lit up when debutant left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin dropped it outside leg-stump. The shot went straight to Tabraiz Shamsi at backward short-leg.
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De Kock, on his T20 captaincy debut, had made a 37-ball 52 with good support from T20 debutant Temba Bavuma (49) when he hit Navdeep Saini over the seamer, only for Kohli to pluck out a stunning catch. Until then, there was some concern India electing to bowl on winning the toss wasn’t going to plan.
Kohli’s innings included four fours and three sixes, taking him to the top of the T20 run-getters’ list (2441), surpassing Rohit Sharma (2434). Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan had laid the base. Pacer Anrich Nortje, on T20 debut, went for 13 runs in his first over. Sharma hit two sixes before being trapped leg before by Andile Phehlukwayo. Dhawan (40 – 31 balls) supported Kohli and could have got his half-century but David Miller’s outstanding catch on the long-on boundary cut short his stay.
Quinton de Kock and fellow opener Reeza Hendricks raised 31 runs before pacer Deepak Chahar removed Hendricks. De Kock relished playing on the Mohali strip and the 26-year-old’s flurry of shots promised a total of 170-180, until Kohli’s sensational catch.
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Saini bowled an off-cutter angling across the stumps and De Kock looked to go over midwicket, but ended up slicing it back over the bowler’s head in the 12th over. Known for his acrobatic fielding, Ravindra Jadeja took a brilliant return catch send back Rassie van der Dussen packing in the very next over, pushing South Africa on the back foot. There on, Bavuma fought a lone battle to push South Africa’s scoring. The No 3 batsman scored 49 runs off 43 balls to propel his team, playing some fluent shots after doubts were raised before the series if he would click in the shortest format. He had risen only up to the fourth joint-highest score by a South African batsman on T20 debut, after anchoring the shaky innings, when Chahar bagged his wicket in the 18th over.
David Miller, who has played at the PCA ground for almost a decade now for Kings XI Punjab in IPL, managed to score just 18 runs before giving away his wicket to Hardik Pandya. Despite the steady start, South Africa struggled to score at the back end of the innings. After De Kock’s wicket, the visitors could not accelerate.
With the first T20 in Dharamsala washed out, India will now look to make it 2-0 when the teams face off in the final game in Bengaluru on Sunday.