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A cruel twist of fate in the form of torrential rain robbed the electrifying crowd at Johannesburg of what was building up to a thrilling contest between India and South Africa. Batting first, the Proteas posted a mamooth 219-4 in 20 overs. Even though all the batsmen got starts, the highlight of the day was the 119 run partnership between Jacques Kallis (61) and Colin Ingram (78). For India, Suresh Raina was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 2-49 while Ravi Ashwin and Irfan Pathan picked up a wicket apiece. Chasing 220, Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa bestowed India with a rousing start. The match was evenly poised with the visiting Indians at 71-0 in 7.5 overs when rain bucketed down to force an end to the proceedings. The grim scenario led to the invitation of the Duckworth-Lewis method and as a result the Proteas won the match by 11 runs.
Team India locked horns with a new look South African outfit at the Bidvest Wanderers stadium, Johannesburg in a one off T20 game on Friday. The match was billed as a tribute for the legendary South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis, as the players competed for the New Age Friendship Cup T20.
The Johan Botha led Proteas side fielded two new caps in Farhaan Behradian and wicketkeeper Dane Vilas while Robin Uthappa, coming off a prolific season for Karnataka and the hard hitting Baroda all-rounder, Yusuf Pathan broke into the Indian Playing XI. The noteworthy absentees from the Indian team were the rested duo of Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan, and ofcourse Sachin Tendulkar, who does not play in the T20 format at the international level.
The flip of the coin went India's way and skipper MS Dhoni elected to bowl first on an absolute belter of a pitch, feeling that the Indians would be better off chasing. This stage was a fine opportunity for the fringe players on both sides to stake their claim for selection for the T20 World Cup.
Richard Levi, the fastest centurion in T20 cricket history, needed no warm up balls and got into the act instantly with back to back fours off Praveen Kumar in the very first over. The ominous looking Cape Cobras batsman waded into Praveen's new ball associate too. However, an unfazed Irfan Pathan came back strongly to have Levi (19) caught by Rohit Sharma at first slip. The new man Colin Ingram and the rock-solid Jacques Kallis filleted the gaps and picked up the odd boundary as India's pacers looked short of answers. In a desperate bid to plug the free flow of runs, Dhoni introduced his trump-card, Ravi Ashwin into the attack as early as the 6th over. The powerplay though completely belonged to the hosts where they stacked up 55 runs for the loss of opener Levi.
Two overs later, Kallis launched the first biggie of the evening when he deposited Yusuf Pathan over the long on fence with majestic ease. Dhoni kept shuffling his spinners but to no avail as the Proteas were cruising towards a mamooth total. Soon, Ingram also announced his name into the sixes column.
The Indians were vividly jaded and jet-lagged. The left-right pair of Ingram and Kallis consistently churned out 9 run overs to power South Africa into the ascendancy. After completing their fifties, Kallis and Ingram cut loose further. Kallis spanked three consecutive fours off Virat Kohli's first over. India eventually snared that elusive breakthrough as Ashwin's carrom ball got rid of 36 year old in the 15th over. Rohit at deep mid-wicket completed another smart catch to signal the end of the dominant 119 run partnership.
Despite the fall of Kallis' wicket, Ingram continued on his merry way with expert timing and nous. The debutant Farhaan Behradian (20) too joined the party to rub salt into the wounds of the Indian bowlers. Vinay conceded 3 fours and a maximum in the 17th over to aid South Africa's cause. However, Rohit in the thick of action again, plucked the ball inches from the ground to see the back of the ultra-aggressive Ingram (78), Raina the beneficiary.
Justin Ontong (22) added 2 sixes and 2 fours to his kitty before he was bowled by Raina. Tossing the ball for the last over to Raina though was akin to throwing lambs to the lions. Raina's fellow Chennai Superkings team mate, Albie Morkel (16*) finished the innings with a humongous six. The South Africans signed off with an imposing 219-4 in their allocated 20 overs. Heading into the break, the hosts were firm favorites.
In pursuit of a daunting 220, Gambhir and Uthappa got India off to a terrific start. India's start infact mirrored that of South Africa's with the ball continuing to come onto the bat nicely. Seizing the initiative, the southpaw hit 2 fours and a six off Morkel's first over. Gambhir singled out Morne for special treatment as his next over produced 13 runs. Not even T20 specialist Rusty Theron was spared as Gambhir unleashed his wrath on the Proteas. The Karnataka batsman, meanwhile manipulated the strike well and ensured that the scoreboard kept ticking. Thankfully for South Africa, Lonwabo Tsotsobe held his own and varied his pace shrewdly. The curtains came down on the powerplay with India well and truly in the hunt at 51-0.
Robin Uthappa welcomed Botha into the fray with a crunching extra cover drive. His partner in crime continued to blend power with finesse to cause panic in the Proteas camp. To the annoyance of the audience, rain came pouring down to hold up play.
The umpires had to call off the game as the rain showed no signs of abating. The match was awarded to the home team since India were behind by 11 runs as per the Duckworth-Lewis method. It was a damp ending to a contest that was threatening to spark into a classic, and the Proteas bowlers were rescued from what would have undoubtedly been a mauling on a flat track.
The action now shifts to the razzmatazz of the 5th edition of the Indian Premier League, which is all set to begin on April 4th.
India: G Gambhir, R Uthappa, V Kohli, R Sharma, S Raina, MS Dhoni (captain & keeper), Y Pathan, I Pathan, V Kumar, R Ashwin, P Kumar.
South Africa: R Levi, J Kallis, F Behradian,C Ingram, A Morkel, D Vilas(keeper), J Botha(captain), J Ontong, J Theron, W Parnell, L Tsotsobe.
South Africa 219-4 (20 overs, 10.95rpo)
C Ingram 78(50) S Raina 2-49
J Kallis 61(42) R Ashwin 1-33
India 71-0 (7.5 overs, 9.06 rpo)
G Gambhir 49*(28)
R Uthappa 18*(19)
South Africa won by 11 runs (D/L method)
File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20
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