The word "choke" will be ringing in the Proteas’ ears all over again as South Africa succumbed to a Munaf Patel triggered collapse at the Bullring in Johannesburg. The South Africans bottled what should have been a comfortable chase of a below-par total on a pitch that was good enough to last two innings.
Earlier, MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat first on a track he said required at least 270 runs to defend. The South African bowlers were disciplined with their line and length, particularly Lonwabo Tsotsobe, making it very difficult for the Indian batsmen to score.
Tsotsobe was angling the ball across the batsmen, getting it to cut away sharply and beating the face of the bat. Murali Vijay (16) was the first to perish to the self-proclaimed "King of Bling" of the South African squad, whose style was rubbing off on the pitch as well.
The Indians also displayed a lot of uncertainty in running between the wickets. Sachin Tendulkar (24) survived a couple of run-out attempts before Virat Kohli (22) eventually succumbed to a direct hit from David Miller. Johan Botha (1-35), who was varying his pace nicely, got the prized scalp of the little master soon after.
Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni looked to steady the ship, and they set about leading India's recovery as the field spread out. The duo batted intelligently without taking any undue risks and took India past the 150 mark in 36 overs. The Batting Powerplay was due, but Tsotsobe delayed it by taking out Yuvraj Singh for a diligent 53 in the very next over.
Dhoni waited for Raina to settle in and eventually took the Powerplay in the 42nd over. But the move backfired, and how! Tsotsobe trapped Raina in front on the first ball itself, which triggered a collapse as the Indians lost four wickets in the five overs, yielding just 14 runs. The Powerplay had showed its double-edged-sword nature and had turned out to be a nightmare for India.
The Indians were soon skittled out for a paltry 190 with Tsotsobe finishing with a four-wicket haul yet again (4-22). The Indian batsmen just seemed to lack in confidence. Suresh Raina (11) looked as if he was forever expecting the short ball, Murali Vijay and Rohit Sharma (nine) were dismal and Sachin Tendulkar still looks as if he’s shaking off the inertia from his long break from one-day cricket.
It was then the turn of the Indian bowlers to carry on the good work displayed by the South African seamers. Munaf Patel got rid of Hashim Amla (four) in his first over itself with a delivery that seamed in from a good length outside off.
Graeme Smith then combined with Colin Ingram (25), JP Duminy (13) and was sharing a solid partnership with David Miller before taking the Batting Powerplay in the 32nd over with the score at 145/4. The Batting Powerplay clearly hadn’t had its last say as the duo of Munaf (4-29) and Zaheer (2-37) clawed India back into the match by dismissing Smith (77), Miller (27) and Botha (four) to leave the Proteas reeling at 163/7.
And if those blows weren’t enough, Dale Steyn (six) ran himself out with the South Africans just 14 runs away from victory. Wayne Parnell and Morne Morkel then battled it out for a couple of overs and took South Africa to within four runs from victory with 48 deliveries left. Enter Munaf Patel.
Morne Morkel went for heroics as he tried to smash a shortish delivery outside off for four, but found Yusuf Pathan at point. All Wayne Parnell had to do was score a couple of runs and he had a leisurely seven overs to do it. But Parnell went for glory too as he cut another short delivery to Yuvraj at point. South Africa had lost by 1 run.
It was a stunning collapse. The Proteas had thrown away the match after being in the driver’s seat for 80 of the 90 overs played. The critics will be screaming the ‘choke’ word all over again. The Indians had bounced back 1-1 after doing so similarly in the Test series, and have set up a dramatic series with all to play for at Capetown, Port Elizabeth and Centurion.
India 190 all-out in 47.2 overs (Yuvraj 53, Tsotsobe 4-22)
South Africa 189 all-out in 43 overs (Smith 77, Munaf 4-29)
India won by one run.
Man of the Match: Munaf Patel
(This article was first published on http://www.isport.in)