Team India signed off the South Africa tour with a nerve-wrecking 7-run victory in the third Twenty-20 international at Newlands, Cape Town on Saturday (February 24). With this win, the Men in Blue clinched the three-match T20I series 2-1.
Speaking at the post-match presentation, India’s stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma credited the bowlers for putting up a brilliant show in the must-win game as he felt that the visitors were 15 runs short of an ideal total.
"To be honest, I thought we were 15 runs short. How the first half went, I thought we lost our way towards the end. I mean these things happen and we learn from it. It was a decent score and once again, the bowlers did it for us. We know how crucial it is for our top three to stay as long as possible. It has happened throughout the series. Last match, it was pleasing to see our middle order perform. Hopefully we can move forward as a group in the coming games. We discussed certain plans and it worked. We tried to keep the ball on the stumps. Their batsmen like width. So it made them go after the bowling after 6 overs,” Rohit said after the match.
“It was a complete bowling unit performance. Throughout the series, we showed a lot of intensity, which helped us get those crucial wins. We never backed down from whatever situation we were thrown in," he added.
In the series decider T20I, India entered into the match without the services of their regular skipper and ace batsman – Virat Kohli. The Indian captain had to miss the game due to a stiff back. In the absence of Virat, there was an additional responsibility on other batsmen to put up a good total on the board.
After being put into bat by South African skipper JP Duminy, India lost Rohit Sharma for just 11. However, the left-handed duo of Shikhar Dhawan (47 off 40 balls) and Suresh Raina (43 off 27 balls) steadied the ship with a 65-run stand for the second wicket.
In the slog overs, the swashbuckling pair of Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik helped India reach a highly competitive total of 172/7. While Karthik scored 13 off just 6 balls with 3 boundaries, Pandya made 21 off 17 balls.
In reply, the South African innings faltered from the very start as they weren't able to bring the run-rate down. The Proteas managed to score only 79 runs for the loss of 4 wickets in 13 overs while chasing India’s target of 173.
However, some serious clean striking in the death overs from debutant Christiaan Jonker made the match thrilling for the viewers. Jonkers’ valiant effort with the bat – 49 off 24 balls ended in a vain as South Africa fell 7 runs short of the target. For India, Bhuvneshwar Kumar scalped two wickets while Bumrah, Shardul and Pandya chipped in with one wicket each.
Team India had won the first T20I by 28 runs before the hosts fought back and won the second game by 6 wickets. It is worth mentioning here that the Men in Blue recorded a double series win on their South Africa tour. Earlier this month, they have emphatically won the six-match ODI series 5-1.