SA stage a dramatic fightback in the 4th ODI: Chokers no more?
It was a situation which the Aussie cricketers of old would have relished. With their backs to the wall, down but not out, to come out snarling like a pack of wolves, catch the opposition unawares, and stage a heroic comeback. Perhaps, the Pakistani's under Imran Khan would have made the most of it too. "Fight like cornered tigers", Imran had instructed his World Cup winning squad during the 1992 World Cup with Pakistan on the verge of elimination in the group stages.
While South Africa do not have an elaborate history of dramatic fightbacks, having been assigned the less complimentary "chokers" tag, it was perhaps time to change history and alter the script a wee bit. For when you are 0-3 down and playing the 4th match in a series of 6, the choices are limited.
Micheal Holding and Shaun Pollock laid to rest fears about the Wanderers pitch playing a spoilsport like it did in the third Test just over two weeks ago, concluding in the pitch report that a high-scoring encounter was on the cards. The pitch, they said, would not influence the course of the match in any great fashion. Rightly so, it was not the pitch but the weather which did have the potential to change the course of the match.
Whether or not the weather influenced the outcome of the match is debatable as the rain held up play twice, one in each inning. The Indian batting seemed to lose momentum after the first rain interruption while South Africa bravely countered a stiff revised target following a spell of lightning which seemed to add a spark to their chase.
Double hundred for Dhawan
India won the toss and elected to bat. Rohit Sharma didn't last too long, picked up by Rabada diving low down to take a superb athletic catch off his own bowling.
Shikhar Dhawan was definitely in a celebratory mood, scoring a hundred in his one-hundredth One Day International. In partnership with his skipper who looked just as ominous as he has throughout this series, they powered India to 178/1 before Kohli fell for 75 trying to up the ante. AB de Villiers making a return to the squad following a finger injury sustained in the third test then took a catch at mid-off to send the centurion Dhawan back much to the delight of the South African supporters.
India looked well on course for a total in excess of 300 when Kohli and Dhawan were on song but with both batsmen back in the pavilion, Rahane and Shreyas Iyer couldn't maintain the tempo and South Africa fought back hard before MS Dhoni (unbeaten on 42) guided India to 289.
After the first session, South Africa would have thanked their stars for a couple of reasons. The first being, they got rid of Kohli and Dhawan before the duo had managed to land a knockout punch. In short, the game was still on. Second, the return of AB De Villiers would no doubt have buoyed South Africa's spirits and raised their hopes of being able to chase down the target.
Rain at the Wanderers
Amla and Markram opened for South Africa, both getting decent starts but falling for 33 and 22 respectively. Markram was out leg-before trying to pull one off Bumrah with the ball hitting him on the back pad. Soon after, as predicted by the weatherman, lighting and rain struck the Wanderers with the Duckworth-Lewis rule coming into play and South Africa were left with a revised target of 202 in 28 overs.
Spinner Kuldeep Yadav then got Duminy and Amla. Duminy was not too happy being adjudged leg-before with a long stride forward. Nevertheless, he had to go with no reviews left in the bag for South Africa. Pandya then got the biggest break of all ensuring that AB De Villiers did not have a dramatic return, after all, caught by Rohit Sharma on 26. With South African at 102/4, was it all over?
For Indian fans in the stadium and around the world who had started the celebrations early, the joy was short lived. David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, and Andile Phehlukwayo with their explosive innings and lusty big-hitting, ensured that the series was not lost; at least, not yet. Miller scored 39 of 28 and 43 of 27. Andile Phehlukwayo scored 23 off 5 balls with three sixes. South Africa reached home with 15 balls to spare ensuring that the D/L system which has lead to their downfall several times in the past did not get the better of them on this occasion.
Chinaman, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal bore the brunt of the Proteas' onslaught with Yadav conceding 51 off his 6 overs and Chahal conceding 68 off his 5.3.
The South Africans have shown with the win that they do have what it takes to come back from the brink. That leaves cricket fans with the prospect of a couple of great contests in store with India looking to seal the series with a win and South Africa fighting to level the series, restore a lot of pride, and of course - shed the unpalatable "chokers" tag once and for all.
So, let's fasten our seatbelts and get set for a cracker of a contest on Tuesday, in Port Elizabeth as the two teams meet again for the fifth ODI.