Proteas expose India's chinks

Rampaging hosts hand Dhonis men a crushing 135-run defeat in opener

Proteas expose India's chinks

 Lonwabo Tsotsobe cut a swathe through Indian batting on Wednesday. AFP

That it wasn’t so much a dramatic change in the character of the playing surface as the lack of character from a fortified batting unit that triggered India’s 17th defeat in 21 one-dayers against South Africa in South Africa should be particularly galling for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Gary Kirsten.

Admittedly, there was more pace and bounce for the Proteas’ four-pronged pace attack under the Kingsmead lights, but it was anything but alarming. The swing that had lured India to a measly 91 all out at the same venue four years back was conspicuous by its absence, making India’s 154 all out and their 135-run capitulation in the first one-day international even harder to digest.

India had used spin of the specialist and part-time variety with reasonable success in the afternoon to haul back a rampant South Africa and keep them down to 289 for nine. It was a massive score alright, but not as intimidating as it once threatened to be, though at a ground where chasing in the night is always a difficult proposition, Graeme Smith had every reason to believe his team had made the most of the toss.

Heavy outfield

A quickened-up surface and the heavy outfield necessitated India to bat with flair and common sense, but through Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and man of the match Lonwabo Tsotsobe (4/31), South Africa rapidly reduced the game to a no-contest as the top was ruthlessly blown away for next to nothing.

It didn’t take long for South Africa to suss up the conditions. Steyn found little swing in the first over – he was still crafty enough in that period to capitalise on Murali Vijay’s early susceptibility to the full ball – and quickly relayed the information around that hitting the deck hard was the way to go for the tall bowling unit. Tsotsobe and Morkel took the leader’s advice to heart, working the Indians over with a telling exhibition of quick bowling that exposed the technical inadequacies of some of the limited-overs specialists.

Given that he is all of six feet five inches, it’s not difficult to associate Morkel with steepling bounce; left-armer Tsotsobe isn’t quite as tall, but he procures almost as much bounce at lesser pace, and from a length that triggers indecision in the batsman’s mind. It was bounce that did Sachin Tendulkar in, his on-the-move pull from outside off ballooning beyond short fine-leg, from where Steyn made excellent ground running backwards to take a beautifully-judged catch and ensure there was no fairytale return for the master to the one-day arena.

Rohit Sharma had little clue against Morkel, squared up and beaten outside off times without number. He couldn’t catch up with any of the Morkel specials that whizzed by and whilst he was unfairly ruled caught behind by Simon Taufel when he missed the ball by a mile, all it did was put him out of his misery. Yuvraj Singh came and went in the same over, bounce again his undoing, and at 43 for four, the writing was very much on the wall.

Only Virat Kohli of the young guns showed stomach for battle. He was all edges to start with, benefiting from Smith’s continued reluctance to attack more as he teased the floating slip, but he rode his luck extremely well and came into his own as the night wore on. He and Dhoni put on 52, the only association of note, though midway through that period, Smith pulled out his heavy artillery and turned to the off-spin of Johan Botha and JP Duminy. Just as the pair was eyeing respectability, Dhoni was run out backing up – not unlike Jacques Kallis at the same venue a fortnight back during India’s famous Test win – to snuff out the last vestige of resistance.

Suresh Raina flailed around a bit, but with Kohli having perished in the batting Power Play and only the tail for company, there wasn’t much he could do. His growing helplessness merely mirrored that of his team, vanquished and battered and the balloon of euphoria from the heroics of the Test series comprehensively pricked.

Score Board

SOUTH AFRICA

289/9 in 50 overs
INDIA
Vijay lbw Steyn     1
(3b)
Tendulkar c Steyn b Tsotsobe     7
(11b)
Kohli c Smith b Steyn     54
(70b, 2x4, 1x6)
Rohit c De Villiers b Morkel     11
(27b, 1x4)
Yuvraj c Smith b Morkel     2
(4b)
Dhoni (run out)     25
(35b, 1x4)
Raina c Ingram b Tsotsobe     32
(36b, 2x4, 1x6)
Harbhajan b Parnell     0
(4b)
Zaheer c Duminy b Tsotsobe     6
(16b)
Nehra b Tsotsobe     1
(7b)
Patel (not out)     1
(1b)
Extras (B-4, W-10)     14
Total (all out, 35.4 overs)     154
Fall of wickets: 1-3 (Vijay), 2-13 (Tendulkar), 3-41 (Rohit), 4-43 (Yuvraj), 5-95 (Dhoni), 6-128 (Kohli), 7-129 (Harbhajan), 8-148 (Raina), 9-153 (Nehra).
Bowling: Steyn 6-0-29-2 (w-4), Tsotsobe 8.4-0-31-4 (w-2), Morkel 5-0-12-2, Parnell 7-0-25-1 (w-4), Botha 7-0-46-0, Duminy 2-0-7-0.
Scoring pattern: 5 overs: 25/2; 10: 41/2; 20: 74/4; 30: 128/6; end of innings: 154 all out in 35.4 overs.
Runs during: Power Play 1: 1-10 overs: 41/2; Power Play 2: 11-15 overs: 16/2; Power Play 3 (batting): 30-34 overs: 23/3.

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