In the opening T20I of the series on Wednesday at the Greenfield International Stadium, Arshdeep Singh and Deepak Chahar destroyed South Africa’s top order with a masterful display of swing bowling. Vice-captain KL Rahul and Suryakumar Yadav then slammed unbeaten fifties to give India an eight-wicket victory.
Arshdeep (3/32) and Chahar (2/24) proved Rohit Sharma’s decision to bowl first by slicing through South Africa’s top order by taking five wickets in the first 15 balls of the innings to keep the visitors to 106/8 in 20 overs on a two-paced, green-tinged pitch as international cricket made its return to the location after three years.
The pair, who missed the most recent home series against Australia, were magnificent in their T20I comebacks to build the groundwork for India’s 1-0 victory in the three-match series. They took the place of a rested Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.
As the left-right fast bowling pair began to move the ball, the atmosphere suddenly felt more like England and less like India, more like Test cricket and less like a T20I match. The South African hitters’ scores resembled a binary code because they struggled to move their feet and fell to the ground like a deck of cards.
After bowling three outswingers, Chahar castled Temba Bavuma with an inswinger on the third ball of the opening inning to start the carnage. Quinton de Kock simply chopped on to his stumps when Arshdeep managed to swing a length ball away from him in the following over.
Rilee Rossouw was then lured by Arshdeep to drive at a full, swinging away delivery, sending wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant a thick outside edge behind, and falling for a golden duck. The very next ball, Arshdeep managed to get a fuller ball to come back in and strike the top of middle stump, shattering David Miller’s stumps.
In the third over, Tristan Stubbs attempted to cut a short, wide ball over point, but instead surrendered a routine catch to a diving Arshdeep at third man. Chahar made it three ducks in five balls for South Africa.
In addition to Aiden Markram’s 25 and Wayne Parnell’s 24, it took Keshav Maharaj’s valiant efforts with the bat—a top score of 41 and three boundaries off Arshdeep in the 19th over—for the visitors to cross the 100-run threshold. This possibility seemed remote when Arshdeep and Chahar decimated them, reducing them to 9/5 inside the first three overs.
The goal of 107 appeared flimsy when Rohit Sharma was persuaded to play at it by a peach from Kagiso Rabada in the second over. However, a thick edge from Sharma went behind to Quinton de Kock, who dove to his right to dismiss the Indian captain for a two-ball duck.
Virat Kohli attempted to cut a short, wide ball from Anrich Nortje after India had made only 17/1, their lowest total in the six overs phase, but the extra bounce caused de Kock to get the edge. Suryakumar (50 not out) hit back-to-back sixes after leaping and fending on his opening ball. A top-edge on draw went over third man, and a carefree flick went over backward square leg.
Apart from escaping close lbw shouts from Parnell and Rabada, Rahul (51 not out) was kept quiet by a number of outswingers and inswingers. Rahul started by flicking his wrists over long-on for six against Nortje, and Suryakumar followed suit by slapping through point for four off Keshav Maharaj.
Following Rahul’s six-run pull over backward square leg of Tabraiz Shamsi, Suryakumar finished the over with a powerful wrist flick past deep mid-wicket for four. When Suryakumar lofted inside-out with the turn over wide long-off off Maharaj, he mesmerised the audience with his signature shot.
Rahul lofted a quick full toss from Nortje over cover for six, and Suryakumar sent a slower ball through point for four as India began to cruise to victory.
In the following over, Suryakumar reached his second consecutive fifty in 33 balls as he continued to collect fours with ease against Rabada. Rahul reached his fifty in 56 balls and finished the chase in style with 20 balls left to spare. On the very next ball, he slog-swept Shamsi over backward square leg.
Brief Scores: South Africa 106/8 in 20 overs (Keshav Maharaj 41, Aiden Markram 25; Arshdeep Singh 3/32, Deepak Chahar 2/24) lost to India 110/2 in 16.4 overs (KL Rahul 51 not out, Suryakumar Yadav 50 not out; Kagiso Rabada 1/16, Anrich Nortje 1/32) by eight wickets