South Africa mean business in this tour of India it seems. Once again the Proteas with a commanding team effort have taken a lead in the series . They held their nerves and beat India in the third ODI by 18 runs in the five-match series in Rajkot . While chasing a not so stiff South African target of 271, India were restricted to 252/6 in 50 overs, thanks largely due to splendid bowling by pacer Morne Morkel who took 4/39.
India began their run chase well with the opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan adding 41. Dhawan’s poor form continued and he fell for (13) to Morne Morkel, Rohit was joined by Virat Kohli coming in at his favourite position number 3 and they added 72 runs for second wicket.
pat- timer JP Duminy broke the stand with the wicket of Rohit for 65. However, Kohli continued the good work and scored his first fifty-plus score after 12 innings and in the process added 80 runs with captain MS Dhoni. However, as the innings progressed the South Africans tightened the screws and the run-rate at one stage climbed up to 9.33 an over.
Desperate for quick runs , Dhoni fell to Morkel after scoring 47. Raina ( again out of form) was out for a duck to Imran Tahir and then Morkel dismissed Kohli (77) and Ajinkya Rahane (4) off successive deliveries to seal the encounter. India finished at 252/6 in 50 overs.
Earlier, Proteas opener Quinton de Kock grafted his way to a century and put on 118 runs with Faf du Plessis to power South Africa to a decent 270 for 7. The visiting team’s wicketkeeper-batsman played the sheet-anchor’s role to perfection in hot and sweltering conditions at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium to make 103 in 118 balls after the visitors opted to bat first.
Courtesy De Kock’s 9th hundred in his 50th ODI appearance along with Du Plessis’ 63-ball-60, the visitors did well to set up a fighting target.
But the loss of three wickets just before the slog overs, including that of the centurion, arrested their progress though Farhaan Behardien (33 off 36 balls) played a useful knock in the end.
Prior to the century partnership between de Kock – who hit 11 fours and a six – and Du Plessis, the former put on 72 runs for the first wicket with promoted David Miller (33) to provide the tourists with a good beginning.
De Kock was run out with the final 10 overs to come soon after du Plessis was dismissed and this was followed by the departure of their captain A B de Villiers, sent back by Axar Patel, off the next ball of the innings.
The clutch of three quick wickets in the space of just 9 balls, left South Africa tottering at 210 for 5 with the last Powerplay just up. Towards the end the visitors added 60 runs, including 35 in the last five.
Harbhajan Singh (1/41 in 10 overs) in particular, applied the brakes in time, after which the Proteas steadily built up the score before losing the three wickets in a hurry. South Africa were given a good start by their new all-leftie opening pair of Quinton de Kock and Miller – promoted up the order after his twin failures earlier in the series – who put on 72 runs. However , the scoring rate dropped significantly once Harbhajan, who bowled pretty impressively by varying his pace and had an extended opening spell of 1 for 31 in 8 overs.