South Africa vs India 2018: Hardik Pandya's direct hit to run out Hashim Amla is SK Turning Point of the match
Pandya's splendid fielding cleared the way for India's historic triumph at Port Elizabeth.
The significance of fielding in the modern game can never be understated. More often than not, a moment of brilliance on the field can turn out to be the difference between winning and losing. The fifth ODI between South Africa and India in Port Elizabeth provided yet another example in such regard.
At a point when the game was on a knife edge, Hardik Pandya provided the star turn by helping India get rid of a well-set Hashim Amla. Following a fatal error in judgement from the experienced batsman, he unleashed a bullet throw to rattle the stumps and catch the South African veteran just centimeters short of his crease.
Pandya's splendid direct hit to run out Amla proved to be the pivotal moment in the game. After the opener was dismissed for an adroit 92-ball 71, South Africa lost their way in the high-pressure run-chase and collapsed to 201. By virtue of their 73-run victory at St George's Park, India took a 4-1 lead and sealed their maiden bilateral ODI series triumph on South African soil.
Amla lives a charmed life
Chasing 275 to stay alive in the six-match series, the Proteas got off to a strong start as skipper Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla kept the Indian seamers at bay. However, Jasprit Bumrah removed the 23-year old batsman to provide a major breakthrough for the visitors.
Pandya solidified India's position by bowling an inspired spell. With the slightly sluggish surface holding up a touch, his back of length deliveries helped induce the outside edge of JP Duminy and AB de Villiers.
The right-arm seamer could have had Amla as well. But Ajinkya Rahane could not hold on to a sharp chance at the closely stationed backward point position. The seasoned campaigner kept the scoreboard ticking over by finding the gaps and punishing the rare loose deliveries.
Amla had another brush with serendipity when he attempted a sweep shot to counter the threat of wrist-spin. Yuzvendra Chahal trapped him in front but could not convince the umpire to side with him. Having wasted their review earlier in the innings by taking a gamble against David Miller, India could not avail the DRS. A visibly frustrated Virat Kohli was seen enquiring the umpire.
Pandya's brilliance ends Amla's defiance
After bringing up his 34th ODI fifty, Amla motored on to keep South Africa in the hunt. When it seemed like a threatening partnership was blossoming between him and Heinrich Klaasen, Pandya struck gold by running out the dynamic opener.
At the start of the game-changing 35th over, the Proteas needed 110 runs from 96 deliveries with six wickets intact. In the third ball of the over, Amla punched a back of length delivery from Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the vicinity of mid-off and set off for a suicidal single. Upon charging towards the ball from mid-off, Pandya picked it up on the bounce and immediately unfurled a rapid throw.
Watch Pandya's stunning direct hit to run out Amla here
With the direct hit smashing on to the stumps, the third umpire was summoned into the equation. After looking at various angles and deliberating on the matter, Aleem Dar gave the benefit of doubt to the fielder. Having been caught short of his crease by the narrowest of margins, Amla was sent on his way for a well-made 71.
As the cameras zoomed towards the South African dressing room and then on Kohli, the contrasting emotions on the myriad faces summed up the massive momentousness of Amla's wicket.
India complete historic triumph
Buoyed by the vital scalp, the Indian spinners triggered a major implosion in the home team's lower-order. Kuldeep Yadav cleaned up Andile Phehlukwayo with a well-disguised googly. But Klaasen almost caused a stir by ensuring that South Africa kept fighting. He hammered the chinaman bowler for two sixes and a boundary in the same over.
However, Kuldeep brought a swift end to the proceedings by razing the Proteas' lower order. He removed Kagiso Rabada, Klaasen and Tabraiz Shamsi in the space of just four deliveries. When Chahal trapped Morne Morkel in front of the stumps, India's domination was complete. The 'Men in Blue' had created history by finally winning a bilateral ODI series on South African soil.