The Indian men’s cricket team went through quite the roller-coaster ride in the T20I series against South Africa, which the two teams shared 2-2 after the final game in Bangalore which got rained out after 21 legal deliveries were bowled.
Down 0-2 after the first two games in Delhi and Cuttack, India captained by Rishabh Pant came out all guns blazing in Vizag and then went on to defeat the Proteas by an even bigger margin in Rajkot. Who knows how things would have played out in Bangalore, with the momentum completely with the hosts. Remember, South African captain Temba Bavuma was ruled out of the final game due to injury.
In the third and fourth games, India really went through the gears with the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya playing big hands in the revival. The ace pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar though was just being his usual self, the miserly wicket-taker, derailing the Proteas.
So, who were India’s top performers in the five-match (or four) series against South Africa?
The leader of the attack, Bhuvneshwar duly led by example, picking big wickets in three of the 4 innings that he bowled in. And if he wasn’t taking wickets, he wasn’t giving the batters any freebies or any width to free their arms.
Bhuvi bowled with pace and got the ball to talk, troubling the batters in the powerplay, pegging them back consistently, from his end at least. The result – he finished with 6 wickets and the best economy rate among the Indian bowlers. His best performance, in terms bowling figures, came in the second game, which India lost. Bhuvi took 4/13 as India looked to defend 148.
The veteran pacer finished as the player of the series, reminding all detractors, that he was very much in the mix in the shortest format. Bhuvi’s effective bowling from one end built the pressure and the likes of Harshal Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal eventually made merry.
Expected to make his variations work wonders against the Proteas, Harshal got off to a bad start in the series in Delhi, going for more than 10 runs an over as India lost a high scoring game. The Royal Challengers Bangalore and Gujarat man however bounced back, and was economical after that, much like what one had come to expect of him.
He picked wickets in every game, and his multiple variations had the big hitting Proteas in all sorts of trouble, especially in Vizag, where he ran through the batting, picking 4 wickets, to help India keep the series alive and kick start the come back.
As always his ability to keep things tight played a big role in restricting SA in the third and fourth T20s.
One of the most talked about players ahead of the series, DK’s form with RCB as a finisher in the recently concluded edition of the IPL saw him force his way back into the national team. And once back in, DK, who said he knows what it feels like to be dropped, wasn’t about to let it go that easy.
He scored only 92 runs, but that includes his maiden half-century in T20Is, which he scored in the fourth game, as India won by a whopping 82 runs.
DK is the only player in this Indian team who was part of the team when they played their first ever T20I. Interestingly, that was also against South Africa, and DK was Player of the Match in both the games.
In the four games, Karthik finished with the highest strike rate among Indian batters, 158.6, and was instrumental in levelling the series. Not only that, he also helped India get close to 150 in the second game, after SA’s bowlers had them in all sorts of trouble. DK the finisher was given his chance again, and he’s taken it with aplomb.
India’s top scorer in the series, Ishan was always all about starting off quickly in the powerplay. He scored a couple of half-centuries, one in the first and then in the third. The southpaw has been crucial in recent times for India, giving them a fast start in the powerplay, which then sets it up for the big hitters to take charge in the second half of the innings.
Kishan, without fail, gave his side a good start in all the games, putting together a very important opening stand in the third along with Ruturaj Gaikwad, who himself was a tad out of touch. Kishan’s troubles with pace and short deliveries continues to be a source of concern, however, his scoring range otherwise can more or less balance it out though.
In-form after a fantastic IPL with the Rajasthan Royals, Chahal was in for a shock, at least at the start of the series as the Proteas took him to the cleaners in the opening two games. Captain Pant also noted that he and the team needed more from the spinners and the ace spinner bounced back in the second half of the series.
The leg spinner took a hammering in the first couple of games, especially in the second, but picked 3 wickets in the crucial game at Vizag and a couple more in Rajkot, helping India control the middle phase of the innings. Once Chahal was back to troubling batters and picking wickets, there was no way out for the Proteas batters, as they failed to keep up with his guile. Chahal finished with 6 wickets and was an important part of the Indian fightback.