The margins at top international level are notoriously small, but the Standard Bank Proteas were probably a full meter wide of the mark in terms of performance as they crashed to a nine-wicket defeat at the hands of India in the second Momentum One-Day International at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Sunday.
Their score of 118 all out after being sent in to bat, several batsmen falling to rash or poorly executed strokes, was hopelessly inadequate and it took India just 20-and-a-half overs to chase it down, for the loss of just one wicket. As a measure of how one-sided the game was, the 177 balls remaining were the most ever in a South African defeat on home soil.
The Proteas once again floundered in the middle overs against the inspired wrist-spin of Yuzvendra Chahhal and Kuldeep Yadav, who took a combined eight for 42 in 14.2 overs.
Batting inside the first half-dozen overs was tough against the impressive new-ball duo of Jaspreet Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who took advantage of the moisture in the pitch after overnight showers. But Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock seemed to have weathered the storm as they reached 39 in the 10th over, before Amla (23) inside-edged Bhuvneshwar into the gloves of Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the bowler seamed a delivery back into the right-hander.
De Kock (20) and Aiden Markram (8), in his first game as national captain, took the score to 51 in 13 overs before both fell in the space of two balls, hitting long hops into the hands of deep midwicket. This was followed four balls later by the wicket of David Miller, caught at slip for a duck off Kuldeep, reducing the Proteas to 51 for four in the blink of an eye.
That brought debutant Khaya Zondo to the crease, and he managed to survive for 45 minutes, scoring 25, before an effort to lift the shrinking run-rate saw him caught off a top-edged sweep against Chahal.
The partnership of 48 he shared for the fifth wicket with JP Duminy, who also made 25, the joint top score of the dismal innings, was the best of the match for the home side.
From 99 for five, the tail was quickly dispensed with by the wrist-spin duo, the last five wickets tumbling for just 19 runs, the total of 118 being the lowest South Africa have ever made in a home ODI.
Chahal stole the limelight with his figures of five for 22 being a career-best and the second-best ever for India against South Africa, behind left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi’s five for six in Nairobi in the 1999/2000 season.
Kagiso Rabada was the one South African bowler who seemed up for a fight, and he claimed the wicket of Rohit Sharma for 15, well caught on the fine leg boundary by Morne Morkel after an attempted hook came off the splice of the bat.
But an unbeaten stand of 93 off 103 balls between Shikhar Dhawan (51*) and the captain, Virat Kohli (46*), carried India to the ruthlessly clinical victory.