If India wish, they can perhaps choose to treat their 49-run defeat in the third T20I in Indore on Tuesday as a minor hassle and quickly move on. While South Africa cruised to victory on the back of Rilee Rossouw’s maiden T20I century (100 not out off 48 balls, 7x4s, 8x6s), India had already won the first two matches and were resting some key players for the dead rubber at the Holkar Stadium. Rohit Sharma’s boys had also won the series against Australia 2-1.
Before the Indian players board the flight to Australia on Thursday for the T20 World Cup, though, they need to pay heed to their bowling in the death overs. Their issues were highlighted in no uncertain terms on Tuesday as South Africa scored 227/3 owing to Rossouw’s exploits. In response, India were bowled out for 178 in 18.2 overs. Barring Dinesh Karthik’s entertaining 21-ball 46 at No 4, there was little of note in their chase.
The Indian bowlers were simply unable to execute their plans as the pressure piled on, giving away 108 runs in the final eight overs. Deepak Chahar conceded 48 runs in his four overs, including three sixes to David Miller in the 20th over of the South African innings that went for 24 runs. Mohammed Siraj and Umesh Yadav finished with figures of 4-0-44-0 and 3-0-34-1 respectively. Harshal Patel, the only pacer from the team on Tuesday who is in the World Cup squad, was the most expensive of the lot. His four overs went for 49.
In the absence of Jasprit Bumrah, there are clearly no easy answers to how India can fill the gaping void at the T20 World Cup.
The bowlers struggled at the death a couple of days ago in Guwahati too, but it didn’t hurt as a result of the majestic display by the Indian batters. Chasing 237, South Africa finished on 221/3 despite being 47/3 in 6.2 overs.
On Tuesday, India dismissed South African skipper Temba Bavuma in the fifth over, but Rossouw and Quinton de Kock quickly imposed themselves and raised a partnership of 90 in eight overs. Rossouw got going with consecutive fours against Umesh. Both deliveries were sliding towards the leg-side, offering the 32-year-old easy runs with the fine-leg fielder inside the 30-yard circle. Having been dismissed for a duck in the two previous matches, the South African left-hander wasn’t going to refuse such a tempting invitation.
While the short boundaries made life difficult for the bowlers – the longest boundary was just 69 metres – the Indians did not help themselves with the lengths they dished up. Siraj, in particular, was guilty of bowling too short in his first two overs, leaking 26 runs as a result.
Rossouw and de Kock were in a belligerent mood, the latter repeatedly using his strong bottom hand to play his trademark pick-up shot on the leg side. He reached his fifty off 33 deliveries in that fashion, tucking away a short delivery by Umesh over the fine-leg region. There was a hint of cheekiness to some of de Kock’s shots, notably reverse sweeping off-spinner R Ashwin over short third man for six.
Rossouw was more about sheer power with his big hits though, capitalising on the favourable batting conditions to really make his innings count. He also capitalised on Siraj dropping him at deep backward square leg off Ashwin. He was batting on just 24 then.
India’s fielding wasn’t entirely sloppy though. De Kock was found short of his crease while attempting a second run when a superb throw from Shreyas Iyer running in from deep midwicket allowed Rishabh Pant to do the rest. Shortly after, Rossouw brought up his fifty in some style, going down on one knee and slogging left-arm spinner Axar Patel for six over deep midwicket.
With plenty of wickets in hand and the Indian bowlers feeling the pressure, Rossouw and Tristan Stubbs continued the onslaught, a partnership of 87 in 43 balls taking the total beyond the 200-run mark.
Any hopes of India chasing down 228 were quelled after three wickets fell within the first six overs. Sharma inside-edged a back of a length delivery from Kagiso Rabada onto his stumps to perish for a duck in the first over of the chase while Iyer – replacing Virat Kohli in the eleven – was adjudged leg-before in the next over by Wayne Parnell. That the hosts were playing a batter less was another handicap that they couldn’t overcome.