THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: After the run deluge by the batters in the Australian series, it was time for the bowlers to call the shots in the first T20I of the three-match series between India and South Africa. The Greenfield stadium here in Thiruvanathapuram lived up to its name by producing a greenish wicket that aided plenty of swing for the seamers.
And two young Indian pacers weren't complaining. Arshdeep Singh and Deepak Chahar, coming into the playing XI in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, proved they can be just as good, if not better than their senior pros with a brilliant exhibition of swing bowling to set up India's eight-wicket win over the Proteas on Wednesday night.
The 'English-like' conditions saw South Africa losing half the side even before the team total had reached double figures. The visitors couldn't recover from that abysmal start and ended up with 106 for eight in 20 overs.
The Indian batsmen didn't have it easy in their chase either as long as Kagiso Rabada was in operation. He dismissed skipper Rohit Sharma for a duck as he troubled the batters with his pace and movement. When Anrich Nortje accounted for Virat Kohli, some jitters were felt. However, KL Rahul and Suryakumar Yadav took their time to wear out the South African bowlers and chipped away at the paltry target with an unbroken partnership of 93 to take India home.
The two batsmen helped themselves to half-centuries as India coasted home in 16.4 overs. Rahul made an unbeaten 51 (56 balls, 2x4, 4x6) while red-hot Yadav remained not out on 50 (33 balls, 5x4, 3x6). Earlier, Chahar who is among India's standbys for the World T20, castled South African skipper Temba Bavuma with a ball that came in sharply to start the slide in the last ball of the first over.
Arshdeep Singh, who has made a reputation for his brilliant bowling in the end overs, showed that he can be just as good with the new ball in conducive conditions, claiming three wickets in his first over. First, he had Quinton de Kock playing onto his stumps.
Off the fifth ball, he induced an edge from Rilee Rossouw which was gleefully accepted by Rishabh Pant before the Punjab pacer showed that he can move it the other way by bringing it in and castling David Miller with his next delivery. Youngster Tristan Stubbs then hit a short and wide delivery from Deepak Chahar into the hands of Arshdeep Singh at widish third man, reducing the visitors to 9 for five in 2. 3 overs, making it their worst start in T20 cricket.
Rohit Sharma decided to bowl both Chahar and Arshdeep right through the powerplay overs and they had figures of 2/15 and 3/15.
Markram tried to stem the rot by trying to negotiate the swing by batting outside the crease. He stroked three sweetly-timed fours and a six off Harshal Patel. However, his tendency to walk across too much brought about his downfall as Patel trapped him in front for a 24-ball 25.
Wayne Parnell, who had smoked a six off Chahar earlier in the innings, curbed his natural instincts after Markram's dismissal and played out a maiden over against Ravichandran Ashwin. Ashwin benefitted from Proteas' defensive approach and bowled a miserly spell of 4-1-8-0 in the middle overs. When Parnell, finally decided to come out of his shell, he hold out to Yadav in the deep off Axar Patel for 24.
Keshav Maharaj smashed Arshdeep for a six and two fours in his final over to spoil the Indian pacer's figures and take South Africa past the 100-run mark. If it wasn't for Maharaj's cameo (41 off 35 balls), South African score would have made for even more dismal reading.
BUMRAH MISSES OUT DUE TO BACK PAIN
India made four changes to their squad from the previous match they played against Australia in the first T20 against South Africa. But the one that may be of concern to India is Jasprit Bumrah missing out yet again. Skipper Rohit Sharma mentioned that Bumrah is out with a "niggle suffered in the morning", and the move to bench him seems to be a precautionary measure.