Comeback man Heinrich Klaasen followed Rassie Van der Dussen’s suit in turning out to be an unlikely hero with a career-best 81 as South Africa once again outwitted India by four wickets on a tricky pitch to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match T20I series here on Sunday. On a two-paced track where most of the batters struggled, Klaasen made it look ridiculously easy as he smashed seven fours and five towering sixes in his 46-ball knock to help his team knock off a target of 149 with 10 balls to spare.
The wicketkeeper-batter, who was included in the side as a forced change for injured Quinton de Kock, completed his fourth T20I fifty in 32 balls before he smashed three sixes off Yuzvendra Chahal to virtually seal the chase. Looking to finish it off with a six, he fell victim to Harshal Patel, and in the very next over, Bhuvneshwar Kumar dismissed Wayne Parnell to finish with a superb 4-0-13-4. But it was not enough as they just needed three runs from the last two overs and the in-form David Miller (20 not out) completed the win to give the Proteas a commanding 2-0 lead going into the Vizag T20I on June 14. The visitors seek their first-ever bilateral T20 series win in India.
Making a comeback after more than seven months, Klaasen never took his foot off the pedal and got his team out of the woods after Bhuvneshwar pegged them back to 29/3 inside the powerplay overs. Klaasen first shared a match-turning 64-run partnership from 41 balls with skipper Temba Bavuma (35) before in-form David Miller joined him in the middle. Defending a modest 149, the Rishabh Pant-led India got off to a superb start thanks to ‘Swing King’ Bhuvneshwar’s triple blow in successive overs. Bhuvneshwar, who looked out of sorts in the Kotla T20I, was back in his element as he sharply swung the ball back in to clean up Reeza Hendricks in his first over. He then dismissed Dwaine Pretorius with a knuckleball before castling the in-form Rassie van der Dussen (1).
Earlier, Indian batters found it tough to get going against some tight bowling display from South Africa to be restricted to a modest 148 for 6. Shreyas Iyer (40) was the top-scorer for India while Ishan Kishan provided some early sparks (21-ball 34) but the hosts lost the momentum in the middle overs under tough batting conditions. That in-form finisher Dinesh Karthik was sent way down at No 7, behind Axar Patel, also made it difficult for the Rishabh Pant-led India, who are trailing 0-1 in the series. Karthik, the team’s designated ‘finisher ‘ (30 not out from 21 balls) smashed two sixes and two fours to give the total some semblance of respectability.
Harshal Patel (12 not out from nine balls) gave him good company as the duo improved the Indian run-rate stitching together 36 runs from the last three overs to give them some respite. Put into bat on a challenging track, the Indian batters struggled barring a small 45-run second-wicket partnership between Kishan and Shreyas Iyer. Opening the bowling, Kagiso Rabada set the tone early on, giving a breakthrough straightway in his first over. He brilliantly set up Ruturaj Gaikwad (1) with a barrage of short balls before mixing up a fuller one to cleverly deceive the opener en route to a miserly spell 4-0-15-1 that included 13 dot balls.
After the sedate start, it was Kishan (34 from 21 balls) who provided the firepower in the power play, smashing Nortje for two sixes to improve their run rate. Fresh from his fiery fifty in the Kotla T20I, Kishan relied on his pick-up shots through the square leg region to hit three sixes and two fours. But just when the duo looked to consolidate, Nortje won the battle against the diminutive Mumbai Indians opener, by pitching it short and offering pace as the lefthander mistimed his hook this time to be caught at deep square leg.