Johannesburg: India's domination in limited overs cricket rolled on unabated as they cantered to a 28-run victory over South Africa in the first T20 International, grabbing a 1-0 lead in the three-match series in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Shikhar Dhawan smashed his fourth Twenty20 half-century, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar claimed his maiden five-wicket haul in T20I to emerge as the architects of the victory at the Wanderers.
Dhawan smashed a 39-ball 72 studded with 10 fours and two sixes to power India to a challenging 203 for 5 after South Africa won the toss and elected to field.
Pacer Bhuvneshwar then returned with figures of 4-0-24-5 as South Africa folded for 175 for nine, despite opener Reeza Hendricks' 50-ball 70-run innings.
Chasing 204, South Africa made a quick start with opener Jon-Jon Smuts (14) and Hendricks putting on 29 off 17 balls as Jaydev Unadkat (1-33) was expensive in his opening spell.
Smuts skied one off Bhuvneshwar and Dhawan took a well-judged catch at mid-on. Two overs later, Raina took a similarly well-judged catch running back from mid-wicket, this time sending back JP Duminy (3) off Bhuvneshwar as well as the hosts managed only 41/2 at the end of the powerplays.
Another skier, this time off David Miller’s bat (9) was also taken by Dhawan as Hardik Pandya (1-45) reduced South Africa to 48/3.
With a mountain to climb, Hendricks was joined in the task by Farhaan Behardien who smacked 39 off 27 balls, inclusive of three fours and two sixes. He put on 81 runs for the 4th wicket with Hendricks and brought some measure of stability to the South African innings.
Hendricks reached his maiden T20 half-century off 37 balls while Jasprit Bumrah (0-32) had a moment of brilliance at the boundary, pulling the ball back in with an acrobatic jump. But it was six still, as per new rules, as his last touch was on the rope.
South Africa crossed 100 in the 12th over even as the asking rate touched 13 per over.
Yuzvendra Chahal (1-39) took some stick, but finally managed to dismiss Behardien and got the breakthrough India were looking.
Heinrich Klaasen (16) threw his bat around as the Proteas crossed 150. But Bhuvneshwar returned to deal them a quick double blow, removing both Klaasen and Hendricks in the space of four balls.
In between, skipper Virat Kohli left the field owing to a left-hip problem and the team physio is currently managing his situation but the management said the issue is not serious.
Meanwhile, Chris Morris (0) was caught off the first ball giving Bhuvneshwar his five-wicket haul. He became the second Indian bowler after Chahal to pick up a fiver in T20Is. He also became only the third pacer after Pakistan’s Umar Gul (5/6) and Bangladesh’s Ahsam Malik (5/19) to achieve this feat against South Africa in T20 cricket.
Later Dane Paterson (0) was run-out, making it four wickets in the 18th over. Andile Phehlukwayo (13) threw his bat around but it was too much in the end.
Earlier, Dhawan was lucky early in his innings. In the fourth over, the opener had tried to play a flick shot off Junior Dala and the ball grazed his gloves. South Africa made an half-hearted appeal but it was called a wide by the umpire.
On a batting beauty at the Wanderers, Rohit Sharma (21 off 9 balls) and Dhawan got off to a flying start as they put on 23 off only 11 balls. Sharma struck two sixes during his short stay as the ball was flying to all corners of the park.
Sharma used bounce in the pitch for his shots, but it brought his downfall as well. He was caught behind off Junior Dala (2-47), trying to play over slips, with South Africa opting for DRS referral.
Surprisingly, Suresh Raina (15) came out at No 3 and played a handy little cameo. India had hit 5 sixes before the fifth over was completed. Raina and Dhawan put on 26 runs off 13 balls, with the former smashing two fours and a six.
Raina skied a pull shot off Dala and the bowler gleefully accepted the catch. He has been dropped on 7* at mid-off by Behardien earlier.
Virat Kohli (26 off 20 balls) too got an early life from Behardien as he grassed a simple catch at long on off Tabraiz Shamsi (1-37). The India skipper and Dhawan marched on quickly as India were placed at 78/2 after the powerplays.
The duo put on 50 off just 25 balls as India crossed 100 in the 9th over. Shamsi however returned to trap Kohli lbw in the 10th over and while the Indian skipper called for DRS, the decision remained in the bowler’s favour.
Dhawan continued smacking the ball and reached his half-century off 27 balls. It was the quickest T20 half-century by an Indian batsman against South Africa, going past Rohit’s 32-ball effort at Durban in 2011.
He added 47 runs with Manish Pandey (29 not out) for the fourth wicket as the Indian inning revolved around him.
He was finally out in the 15th over, scooping a catch behind off Andile Phehlukwayo (1-16). After that India lost a bit of momentum in their innings as Pandey and MS Dhoni (16) added only 28 off 21 balls before the latter was bowled by Chris Morris (1-39) in the penultimate over.
Hardik Pandya (13 not out) and Pandey put on 20 runs off 11 balls though and made sure India crossed the 200-run mark. It was the Men in Blue’s highest T20I score against South Africa.