South Africa clinched a clinical win over India in Cuttack on Monday, winning the Twenty20 series with a game still to spare. But an unruly crowd soured the experience as play had to be halted on more than one occasion. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
If the first Twenty20 (T20) on Friday, in which South Africa chased down 200 in a thrilling encounter that went down to the last over, set the marker for this series, then Monday’s match failed in all aspects. Not only was the cricket average, but the crowd, too, were disappointing.
On a number of occasions, the aggrieved fans who had piled into the ground in Cuttack threw bottles onto the pitch. On two occasions, play had to be halted. At one stage, it looked like play might be called off completely, with South Africa clinching victory on the Duckworth-Lewis method. The match officials, though, had other plans. They cleared the unruly crowd and play resumed. South Africa clinched an easy six-wicket win, having been set a target of just 93. But there is no doubt that what should have been a jubilant victory had the wind taken out of it just a little bit due to the behaviour of the crowd.
It is curious that fans were even allowed to take bottles in the stadium. Usually in India, water is served in plastic packets and where bottles are available, the contents are is usually decanted into plastic cups. This kind of behaviour is likely to have serious consequences for Cuttack’s future hosting possibilities. Such incidents are not only irksome, but completely unnecessary. Still, the show must go on, and boy did it.
South Africa won the toss and elected to bowl first. The decision proved to be a fruitful one with India collapsing to 92 all out. Credit must go to Faf du Plessis who used his bowlers cunningly. He opened with Imran Tahir and allowed Kagiso Rabada to bowl four overs on the trot when he was quite clearly on fire. The captain coyly said afterwards that “it’s easy to be a captain when your bowlers are doing well”, but he deserves credit for thinking outside the South African box, which can quite often be quite conservative in cricketing terms.
South Africa’s fielding, too, deserves immense credit. They have had a few slip ups here and there over the last few months, but when the Proteas’ fielding is on point, it is something to behold.
Then there is Albie Morkel. A man who thought a few months ago that his international career was over earned himself a man-of-the-match performance on Monday. Domestically, Morkel has been a brilliant cricketer, but has always struggled to carry that form into international cricket. However, he showed that T20 is very much a cricket game for old men. Morkel is by no means ancient (he’s closing in on 35), but he’s far from a spring chicken. Still, experience and nearly 300 T20s must clearly count for something. His figures of 4-0-12-3 with the ball were the best on the night and he is surely bordering on a place for next year’s World T20 if he can repeat the performance domestically over the coming months.
South Africa’s batsmen simply went through the motions, with JP Duminy once again playing the anchor role. The chase was simple and while there were a few stutters, South Africa avoided a potentially embarrassing disaster.
But these matches are mere appetisers for the looming Test series, by far one of the most important challenges South Africa have faced in recent years. Before that happens, though, there is a one-day series to get through first. And before that series, there is one more T20.
The third and final T20, which will be played on Thursday, now presents an opportunity for a few players. Eddie Leie could get another trial while Quinton de Kock could also be eased back into action. Leie had an impressive debut in Bangladesh and it would be disappointing for him to be nothing more than a passenger on this tour, especially considering South Africa’s domestic season kicks off on Friday. Getting some cricket under his belt would be a far better idea than carrying the drinks. For De Kock, the equation is not so simple. Opening with AB de Villiers is something South Africa have pondered for a long time and which has proved successful now that it has been tested.
The question will be what it means for De Kock if he regains his form. On his day, De Kock is a match-winner but if South Africa want to persist with De Villiers at the top of the order, he will have to slot in lower down, as he does in Tests. For the final T20, South Africa might opt to rest De Villiers head of the one-day international and Test series and hand De Kock his natural role, but for the future, this series might create more questions than answers. DM
Scorecard summary: South Africa won by six wickets
India 92 all out: Rohit Sharma 22 (24), Suresh Raina 22 (24); Albie Morkel 4-0-12-3, Imran Tahir 4-0-24-4
South Africa 96-4: AB de Villiers 19 (21), JP Duminy 30 (39); Ravi Ashwin 4-0-24-0, Axar Patel 3-0-17-1
Photo: India’s Virat Kohli dives to make the crease as he is run out by South Africa’s AB de Villiers during their second Twenty20 cricket match in Cuttack, India, October 5, 2015. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/