After losing the first match of the India-South Africa five-match T20I series by 7 wickets, India suffered another defeat as the Proteas went on to clinch the second game in Cuttack by 4 wickets.
Sent in to bat first by South Africa, India managed 148 runs in 20 overs on a rather difficult surface. Except for Ishan Kishan (34), Shreyas Iyer (40), and Dinesh Karthik (30*), none of the batters could get the scoreboard going.
Defending a mere 148, the only Indian bowler who managed to put forth a good performance was Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
The 32-year-old veteran pacer dismissed opener Reeza Hendricks with a perfect inswinger in his first over. In quick succession, he dismissed Dwayne Pretorius with a knuckleball and Rassie van der Dussen, the star performer of the last game, for just one.
Bhuvneshwar's splendid performance made things difficult for South Africa as they lost 3 wickets for 29 runs in the powerplay overs.
Speaking to Star Sports after the match, former South Africa skipper Graeme Smith said, “He was just outstanding. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was good thinking...and skill-level as well. When Reeza Hendricks was on strike, he knew he struggles against the inswinger. He got one right and knocked him over.
“Dwaine Pretorius walked in next and he decide to take him on, but is knocked out with the knuckleball. Just brilliant control and execution,” said Smith.
At the near end of the innings, Bhuvneshwar dismissed Wayne Parnell and ended his magical spell with 4 for 13.
Legendary former India opener Sunil Gavaskar lauded Kumar for his performance in the game and explained why the swing-master would be a huge plus for India in the forthcoming T20 World Cup in Australia in October.
“He was just brilliant. The white ball doesn't swing that much, in the air or off the surface, but he has got that capability. And that is why it was very good captaincy from Rishabh Pant to give him that third over in which he got a wicket as well. Because after that the ball wouldn't have moved that much as well and Bhuvneshwar would have been ineffective. But to have someone like him in Australia, where there will that little bit of more carry and bounce, I think that will be a huge plus,” he said.
(Star Sports inputs)