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NEW DELHI: After over 25 years of touring South Africa, an Indian cricket team has managed to beat South Africa in an ODI series. It is no surprise that the team to do so is currently ranked No 1 in ODIs, or that its captain is the talismanic Virat Kohli who has batted on a different level in the ongoing six-match series, which India wrapped up on Tuesday against a depleted and spin-weary home team.
After victories in Durban (by six wickets), Centurion (by nine wickets) and Cape Town (by 124 runs), India were beaten on Saturday in a rain-hit fourth ODI, but stormed back to claim the series with a 73-run victory over South Africa at Port Elizabeth.
As it happened
Kohli thus became the first Indian captain to win an ODI series in South Africa. His contributions have been exemplary – 429 runs in five innings, with two centuries and a half-century. Leading the bowling and totally flummoxing South Africa’s batsmen in four of five matches have been the wrist-spinning pair of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal with 16 and 14 wickets respectively.
India’s long-awaited ODI series triumph on South African soil came after six tours, dating back to 1992. That first series in South Africa was won by the hosts 5-2. Successive tours in 1996-97 (0-4), 2000-01 (a triangular series also featuring Kenya, where India were beaten in the final), 2006-07 (0-4) and 2013-14 (0-2) all ended in disappointment. In 2003, a team led by Sourav Ganguly had marched into the final of the ICC World Cup, where it was hammered by an all-conquering Australian outfit under Ricky Ponting. During the 2009 Champions Trophy, MS Dhoni’s team was eliminated before the knock-out stage.
India’s success has handed South Africa just their seventh bilateral ODI series defeat at home. Barring six defeats and one 4-4 scoreline, the previous 42 such series have all been won by South Africa. That is a staggering record to have at home, and one South Africa can be very proud of. They have been beaten by the top-ranked team in ODIs, and one that has taken big strides towards improving their record away from Asia. Chahal and Kuldeep have been consistently attacking.
This current team, ranked second in ODIs, have been hit hard by injuries to their captain Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock. In the first game, du Plessis carried the home team with a fine 120 before he was ruled out of the series with a fractured finger. The wicketkeeper-batsman de Kock followed after suffering a left wrist injury during the second ODI, while de Villiers only returned to the lineup for the fourth ODI having recovered from a finger injury.
And with Hashim Amla enduring a lean series – just one fifty in five games – the home team has been left with very little batting power.
What has been stunning to witness is the regularity with which South Africa’s batsmen have struggled to pick Chahal and Kuldeep’s deliveries. The 27-year-old Chahal has enjoyed a stunning run of success, taking 2/45, a career-best 5/22, 4/46, 1/68 and now 2/43.
With the dismissal of David Miller, Chahal has surpassed former West Indies allrounder Keith Arthurton’s mark of 12 wickets taken across seven ODIs during the 1998-99 season as the most by an overseas spinner in a series in South Africa. However, Kuldeep bettered Chahal’s record in the same match with his match-winning haul of 4/57.