Miller, Klaasen hammer spinners to keep series alive

Cricket


India 289 for 7 (Dhawan 109, Kohli 75, Ngidi 2-52) v South Africa
Live scorecard and ball-by- ball details

It was thrill-a-minute at the Bull Ring, testing the mettle of both teams mettle and the nerves of packed crowd. For the longest time, India were dominant, Shikhar Dhawan‘s 109 leading the way. Then lightning struck, literally, to stop play and allow South Africa some time to regroup. Led by a miserly Kagiso Rabada, they conceded only 92 runs in the last 16 overs and earned themselves a target of 290. That was top work considering the Wanderers rarely entertains ODI chases of less than 300.

And there would be more. Rain reduced the game to 28 overs and South Africa were told they needed 202 to keep the series alive. It was under this pressure – with their two best batsmen already dismissed – that they played shots that were absolutely jaw dropping and won moments that were nothing short of match-changing. At the centre of it all was a newbie.

Heinrich Klaasen, the stand-in wicketkeeper, took a ball of wristspin – you know, the thing that’s made South Africa spontaneously combust in this series – from outside the cut strip and pulled it for a one-bounce four to square leg. He then launched a free hit delivery so far into the night sky that it came down with a bit of star dust. An unbeaten 43 off 27 in a highest of pressure scenarios to seal victory is a grand return. “Best feeling in my career,” the 24-year old gushed at the presentation.

David Miller, at the other end, was equally destructive. He even one-upped his partner, sending a six so far into the crowd that the ball had to be changed. Clearly, he hasn’t taken too well to India making him look like a walking wicket. Ironically, it was after he was bowled neck and crop by Yuzvendra Chahal, off a no-ball, that he unfurled his full and devastating power. By the end of the night, India’s wristspinners nursed figures that read 6-0-51-2 and 5.3-0-68-1.

India would feel rather hard done by considering the weather in Johannesburg played a part in spoiling their batting effort in the middle overs and returned later in the day to give South Africa the kind of clarity that they did not seem capable of when playing Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav earlier in the series. It was hit out or get out and with almost nothing to lose, Klaasen and Miller indulged in batting that was very near maniacal. Andile Phehlukwayo was worse. He faced five balls, and walked back with 23 runs, including the winning hit.

Those cameos put the highest scorer of the day in the losing side. Bowlers cramping Dhawan for room is normal in any form of cricket. His abandoning that trademark, off-side dominant game and still managing to be a threat? Not so much. A century on his 100th ODI needs no added frills, not after it came with the addendum that he was the first Indian to do so, but sending out a message that he isn’t as one-dimensional as he seems must have felt sweet.

South Africa did not allow him any runs on the cut until the 43rd delivery he faced. He went for the shot often enough, and was lucky to avoid chopping onto his stumps, but eventually decided that there were other ways to score and he was good enough to exploit them. At one point, he was 85 off only 75 balls, with flicks reminiscent of Sanath Jayasuriya and drives – the first one especially – that could fit into a Matthew Hayden highlight reel. Dhawan made 69 runs in the arc from long-on to long leg, and only 21 between long-off and third man.

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