DURBAN: An injury-hit India produced a disciplined all-round performance to notch up an emphatic 21-run victory over South Africa in the only Twenty20 International on Sunday.
Playing without key openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, India rode on a brilliant half-century by Rohit Sharma (53 off 34 balls) and Suresh Raina’s racy 23-ball 41 to post a competitive 168/6 after skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat.
The visitors then returned to restrict South Africa to 147/9 in the stipulated 20 overs to complete the victory at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Ashish Nehra and Yusuf Pathan chimed in with two wickets each to contribute to the cause.
For South Africa, opener Morne van Wyk blasted a whirlwind 39-ball 67 comprising five fours and as many sixes but he didn’t get support from the other end as the hosts fell short by 21 runs in the end.
India and South Africa will next play the five-match one-day series starting on Wednesday.
Chasing 169 to win, South Africa had a slow start as they lost their opener Hashim Amla in the second over with seamer Ashish Nehra doing the damage.
Nehra’s delivery landed on the off-stump and moved in a bit as Alma trying to play across the line, completely missed it only to see his wickets disturbed.
However, new batsman Morne van Wyk blasted a six and a couple of fours in the first three balls off Munaf Patel in the third over to shrug off the slow start.
He clubbed another six in the next over, pulling Nehra over deep midwicket but Patel removed Colin Ingram in the other end to leave South Africa at 31/2.
van Wyk, however, continued his blitzkrieg and picked up another six and a four off Patel to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Off-spinner R Ashwin was then introduced into the attack but it made no difference to van Wyk’s plans as he plundered a four and six at long off and mid wicket respectively to take South Africa across the 50-run mark.
AB de Villiers then joined the party and lifted a Yuvraj Singh’s delivery over extra cover for a boundary, before picking up another four at the same area.
van Wyk then sent one Ashwin delivery flying over the deep midwicket for a six to complete his half-century in just 24 balls, registering the fastest fifty by a South African in Twenty20 cricket.
The 31-year-old hammered another four off Praveen Kumar in the ninth over but India pulled things back in the next over, picking up the wickets of de Villiers (14) and JP Duminy (0) within three balls.
Five balls later, danger man van Wyk was also sent packing by Kumar when looking for a big shot he was caught at deep square leg by Nehra.
Pathan then struck with his off-break, removing David Miller. He was adjudged lbw as South Africa slipped to 108/6 in 12.5 overs.
Botha, however, continued South Africa’s fight back with a six over wide long on off but Pathan dismissed Robin Peterson to leave the hosts at 120/7.
Needing 38 runs off 18 balls, Parnell picked up a four off Nehra in the first delivery but with the Indians keeping a tight line, runs were hard to come by.
Looking to accelerate, Parnell was caught at deep square leg by Pathan, while Botha holed out to Rohit in the 20th over as it was all over for the hosts.
Earlier, Rohit blasted five fours and two sixes and shared 49 runs in 29 balls with Virat Kohli (28) and another 42 runs with Yuvraj Singh (12) to set the foundation for a good total.
Raina (41) then provided the late charge and added 26 and 32 with Pathan (6) and Dhoni (10) to take India beyond the 150-mark.
Opener Murali Vijay gave India a positive start, slicing Wayne Parnell between the wicketkeeper and slip for a boundary in the first over, before clobbering him for another four through square leg.
The Tamil Nadu batsman gave the same treatment to Makhaya Ntini in the next over before Morned van Wyk pulled off a blinder to dismiss Vijay as India lost their first wicket with 18 runs on the board.
However, Parnell found no respite as Virat Kohli picked up a boundary in the next ball through the fine leg area, before lifting Theron over mid-wicket boundary.
In the fifth over, Rohit and Kohli went berserk, picking up three fours and a six off Ntini to accumulate 20 runs and take India to 49/1.
However, skipper Johan Botha broke the partnership, removing Kohli. Looking for a pull, the Delhi batsman edged the ball straight to the stumps.
Botha and JP Duminy pulled things a bit in the next two over but Rohit had other plans as he blasted two fours and a six in successive balls in the 12th over to take India past the 100-mark.
Rohit reached his half-century with another boundary off Duminy but the bowler had the last laugh when he had the batsman holed out to Ntini at long on.
A terrible mix-up cost India another wicket when Yuvraj was run out in the 14th over. Looking for a non-existent single, Yuvraj ran upto new man Pathan only to realise late that he had reached a point of no return.
Raina then joined Pathan and straightaway got into the business, blasting a four and a six off Theron but the pacer dismissed Pathan in his last delivery to leave India at 136/5 in 16 overs.
In the company of Dhoni, Raina then continued his rampage and brought up another six off Ntini in the 18th over, before hitting Theron for another maximum in the 20th over to take India past the 150-mark.
The left-hander blasted three sixes and two fours in his 23-ball innings and was out in the last ball of the Indian innings.(PTI)