Over the past two weeks, the wheels seem to be coming off for the Indian team. Wednesday was an example of lack of clarity in the Indian dressing room. Barring Dhawan (79 off 84) and Kohli’s (51 off 63) 92-run partnership and the opening spell by Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, South Africa put the competition beyond India. Perhaps, the middle-order has got too used to Kohli, Dhawan and Rohit Sharma killing games. Even as they fell short of their respective centuries, they had set the game up. It’s just that the undercooked middle-order was exposed for too long.
As it happened | Scorecard
Shardul Thakur’s harmless unbeaten 50 off 43, while putting up an unbeaten 51-run ninth-wicket stand with Jasprit Bumrah, at the back end was more about going through the motions for the hosts.
The twin centuries by captain Bavuma (110 off 143) and van der Dussen (129* off 96) were a masterclass in how to build an innings. When van der Dussen joined Bavuma at 68/3 in the 18th over with the pitch taking a bit of turn and stopping on the batters, it seemed like a game of survival.
That’s that from the 1st ODI.South Africa win by 31 runs.Scorecard – https://t.co/PJ4gV8SFQb #SAvIND https://t.co/NrRNxZgMNK
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1642610811000
As the duo had shown in the preceding Test series, they were much more about than just surviving. They unleashed a barrage of sweep shots against spinners R Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal. The spell of batting was reminiscent of Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting nullifying Indian spinners in the 1987 World Cup semifinal. In comparison, the South African spin attack of Keshav Maharaj, Tabraiz Shamsi and Aiden Markram (sharing four wickets at a lower economy rate) outbowled their Indian counterparts.
KL Rahul, captaining in a List A game for the first time, was found wanting in his first assignment as India’s ODI captain.
🚨 RESULT | #PROTEAS WON BY 31 RUNSA commanding team performance with bat and ball sees Temba Bavuma’s men take a… https://t.co/asijZTXplg
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) 1642609925000
As Bavuma and van der Dussen dug deep, the runs started to flow. Venkatesh Iyer, hyped by Rahul as a sixth-bowling option, never got a ball. India’s ODI cricket has been shaky in the few ODI that they have played in the last two years. They have barely competed overseas. And the two chronic problems in the format — middle-order and sixth bowler — resurfaced and that was the undoing. The team, claiming to carry out a major transition, needs to plug the loopholes which have been around for too long.
Picking Venkatesh over Suryakumar Yadav made little sense when he wasn’t bowled. Him being a left-handed batter could have been the only argument. The debutant, though, probably had too much to do with the bat once Rishabh Pant was stupendously stumped by Quinton de Kock off seamer Andile Phehlukwayo down the leg-side with 182 on the board and 115 needed off 96 deliveries. His desperate pull down to the throat of mid-wicket sealed his debut with just two runs against his name.
Dhawan, Kohli and Rohit Sharma, for much of their careers, have shielded the middle-order with their ominous conversion rates. Every time they failed to finish off a game, the middle-order struggled to get the job done. The first ODI has offered more questions than answers for head coach Rahul Dravid.