While Dinesh Karthik did his thing with the bat and scored his maiden half-century in T20Is, it was the young quick Avesh Khan who cranked up the heat against the South African batters in Rajkot. Avesh bowled with pace and left his mark on the batters, picking 4 wickets, setting up a comprehensive 82-run win.
The series stands tied at 2-2 with India having come back from 0-2 down at one point. The next game is in Bangalore on Sunday. This is India's biggest victory margin against South Africa in T20s.
Batting first, India’s start was very unlike the previous encounter, as they lost wickets and were pegged back in the powerplay. A cracking start from Lungi Ngidi meant Ruturaj Gaikwad was caught behind for 5 in the second over.
In the next over, Shreyas Iyer dismissed by Marco Jansen for 4, as India huffed and puffed to 40/2 at the end of the powerplay. The first delivery of the next over had the crowd silenced as Ishan Kishan was packed off for 27, caught behind of Anrich Nortje.
Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya had the task of rebuilding, and over by over they went about their job, absorbing the pressure and hoping to set up for a big finish. Pant and Hardik played out a few quiet overs in the middle as South Africa’s bowlers kept it out of their hitting arc.
While Hardik looked to break free with a couple of big sixes in the 12th over, Pant at the other end wasn’t able to get going. Keshav Maharaj floated one outside off stump and Pant took the bait and miscued the shot and was caught for 17. The duo put on 41 runs. India lost their fourth wicket and the pressure was well and truly on Hardik.
Hardik and Dinesh Karthik for company, and they took stock in the 15th over before going through the gears after that. Nortje and Maharaj were both taken to the cleaners as India crossed the 100-run mark with ease and powered along in the crucial final phase of the innings. DK was showing the kind of form he had in the IPL with RCB, which meant danger for SA. Soon enough, DK had over taken Hardik’s score and both were inching close to well deserved half-centuries.
In the 19th, Hardik hammered Ngidi for a six and then off the next delivery was caught at third man for 46, with 10 balls to go. In the final over, Karthik clobbered Dwaine Pretorius into the stands to get to his maiden fifty in T20Is before being castled off the next, caught at deep square leg for 55. After the wicket, Harshal Patel and Axar Patel added 10 more to get to 169/6.
In response, South Africa’s chase never really took off – Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma were met with a hostile Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya. The South African captain took a couple of painful knocks early on and eventually retired hurt for 8 in the fourth over.
A moment of miscommunication between Quinton de Kock and Dwaine Pretorius saw the left-hander runout for 14. After which Pretorius was castled for a duck by Avesh Khan, caught behind by Pant.
Yuzvendra Chahal got into the act as well soon after the power play as he trapped Heinrich Klassen trapped LBW for 8. In the 11th over, Harshal Patel struck, cleaning up the in-form David Miller for 9.
South Africa were in deep trouble and India were tightening the screws, much to the joy of the crowd at Rajkot. The Proteas’ batting was looking a far cry from what they were in the first couple of games.
Marco Jansen clubbed a couple of big ones and moved on to 12 before he took a knock to the back of his head of Avesh’s bouncer, which needed immediate attention. He got hit on the back of the neck but after some treatment he was ready to go. Jansen went to clear midwicket of the next ball, and Gaikwad caught the batter, who walked back for 12. South Africa were 7 down and staring at the barrel.
Avesh wasn’t done yet, knocking over Keshav Maharaj for a duck, caught at mid on by Shreyas. Avesh had picked 4 wickets by the end of his third over, picking three in one. Chahal then dismissed Nortje for 1 after that and Avesh bowled out with figures of 4/18.
Axar Patel packed off Ngidi for 4 as India levelled the series with an 82-run win.