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INDIA-SOUTH AFRICA SHARE HONOURS IN THRILLING T20 SERIES AS SURYA SHINES ONCE AGAIN

The thrilling T20 series between India and South Africa concluded on a terrific high with both teams showcasing their prowess in the game’s shortest format. With the first game washed out, the three match series ended in a 1-1 draw in an encounter that became a great learning ground for youngsters of both sides. In particular, Team India would be proud of its captain Suryakumar’s efforts as he became the joint highest century maker in international T20s with 4 hundreds and was the key catalyst in India’s impressive shows!

In the absence of big stars Rohit and Kohli, Surya was the most experienced batter in the top order. He was also carrying the extra responsibility as a captain with Hardik Pandya, the regular T20 skipper, not available due to an ankle injury sustained in the recent ODI World Cup. Yet, Surya did not succumb to the added captaincy pressure and performed like the numero uno batter that he is in the ICC rankings. After the washed off game, India batted first in the next match and Surya was at the crease with his team reeling at just 6 runs for the loss of 2 crucial wickets. He not only stitched a crucial partnership with Tilak Verma but also made sure that the run rate never went down.

He scored 56 off just 36 balls as India posted 180 with 3 balls left, when a rain disruption stopped play. Along with Surya, Rinku Singh continued to impress one and all with his fine hitting and calm temperament all through the series. After Surya’s dismissal, he made sure that India got to a par total, striking 9 fours and 2 sixes in his unbeaten effort of 68 in just 39 balls.

It was unfortunate that India lost the game. The rain cut the Indian total of 180 and set the Proteas a target of 152 in just 15 overs. But it gave the likes of Reeza Hendricks and Aiden Markram the freedom to go after Indian bowling from the very start. The South African top order was particularly harsh on Arshdeep Singh who went for 31 runs in 2 overs without a wicket. Arshdeep was below his best even in the series against Australia and is making his case weak for selection in the squad for the T20 World Cup.

South Africa won the match by 5 wickets with 7 balls remaining as Indian bowlers were unable to put the brakes on their free scoring. Kuldeep was the pick of the Indian bowling line-up with the best strike rate in the carnage. But he made sure that there was no repeat in the second match and single handedly destroyed the South African batting by picking up 5 wickets for 17 runs inside 3 overs. His mate, Ravi Jadeja also bamboozled the Proteas batsmen and picked up 2 wickets for 25 as India cruised to a serieslevelling 106 run win.

The architect of the Indian win though was Surya as he bludgeoned a stunning hundred in just 56 balls to make sure that India had a match winning score on the night. This time too he came in with India tottering at 29 for 2 but Surya steadied the ship with Yashasvi Jaiswal. Their thrilling 112-run partnership came in just 11 overs. Indian lower order batsmen couldn’t contribute much and a target of 202 was set for the Proteas. At the mid-way mark, some experts felt the inform Proteas batsmen may overhaul the target but ultimately, they fell far short!

International cricket’s relentless bandwagon will roll on as India battles South Africa in a 3 match ODI series starting Sunday. The series may not be crucial in an overall sense as the ODI World Cup has just ended but it will give K.L.Rahul a chance to lead a young bunch and prepare them for the future. Rinku Singh has been handed a maiden ODI call up along with Sai Sudarshan. Interestingly, Yuzvendra Chahal will return to revive his partnership with Kudeep Yadav. Kul-Cha as they are popularly called, are fan favourites and much of India’s bowling will rest on their shoulders.

The grand finale of the tour will be the Test series which starts on Boxing Day, 26th December. With Rohit talking about gunning for “another ultimate prize”, the Test Championship could be his next target in a scenario where he may not play the upcoming T20 World Cup. The series will feature the complete first choice line-up, and will begin a new cricketing season for Kohli, Rohit and Bumrah who haven’t played a game since India’s loss in the ODI World Cup final. India has never won a test series in South Africa and will hope the Indian superstars will channel their World Cup disappointment to a historic triumph on African soil!

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

Siddhaarth Mahan The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry

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