Kanpur: On Sunday, the South African captain led from the front by scoring a magnificent unbeaten century and then helping his team defend a huge aggregate for a thrilling five-run win over India in the first One-Day International at the packed Green Park here.
This helped South Africa continue its domination by securing a 1-0 lead in the five-match series as M.S. Dhoni and his team struggled to cope with a crisis of reputation despite a valiant chase.
After electing to bat, the visitors banked on de Villiers’ explosive century to post 303 for five and restricted India to spoil century-maker Rohit Sharma’s effort.
Dhoni enjoyed good control over the proceedings when he employed the spinners on a slow-paced surface. Following a 45-run opening partnership, South Africa benefited from the pragmatism and application of Hashim Amla (37) and Faf du Plessis (62), who added 59 runs for the second wicket.
Amla ruled the offside with his wristy elegance while du Plessis, who survived a strong lbw appeal in the first ball he faced, played some handsome boundaries on both sides.
Amit Mishra breached Amla’s defence through a sharp googly to end the partnership. du Plessis carried on his good work with de Villiers to put on 48 runs before a change of pace on Umesh Yadav’s return in the 34th over cut short the former’s innings.
The batting track, albeit two-paced, shorter boundary, slick outfield and a tumultuous crowd—all made for typical home conditions where India is cut out to succeed. They were in control when Rohit (133b, 13x4,6x6) was in full flow before leg-spinner Tahir showed his class in the 47th over. Rohit gave a return catch and then Suresh Raina, coming at No. 6, was caught at mid-wicket in the last ball.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who came at No.5, played his run–a-ball innings but big strikes deserted him. With India needing 11 from the last over, young Rabada bowled a short of length delivery to remove Dhoni and then Stuart Binny off successive balls to pull curtains on India.
Such an outcome was hard to imagine when Rohit and Rahane got going during their 149-run partnership for the second wicket.
On a slow surface, which demanded patience and execution, the two carved out a solid foundation for India. As Dhoni had suggested, Rahane came at No.3, a spot owned by Virat Kohli, who shifted to No. 4. The mishmash reflected in the batting, which crumbled once Rahane was caught at cover region off Farhaan Behardien.
If anyone stood out for India, it was Rohit with his combative knock, underlined by clean hitting and sublime timing. Sadly for him, his eighth hundred came in a losing cause.
For South Africa, De Villiers anchored the innings brilliantly following a promising start by openers Hashim Amla and Quinton De Kock. The South African captain curbed his attacking flair at the start before exploding in the slog overs.
In fact, the South African top order responded impressively to Indian conditions. De Kock and Amla attacked the seamers early, forcing Dhoni to introduce his best spinner - Ravichandran Ashwin in the ninth over.
De Villiers’ 50 runs came off 54 balls and the strokeplayer in him came alive once the innings entered the 40th over. The Indian bowling, especially Binny and Umesh, was mercilessly hammered. In the company of Bahardien, who once again gave a good account during his unbeaten 65-run stand with his captain, de Villiers brought up his century in style, with a flat smack over long on in the last ball of the innings, that also raised the highest total on this ground.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock c Raina b Ashwin 29 (33b, 5x4), Hashim Amla b Mishra 37 (59b 3x4), Faf du Plessis lbw b Yadav 62 (77b, 5x4, 1x6), A.B. de Villiers (not out) 104 (73b, 5x4, 6x6), David Miller st. Dhoni b Mishra 13 (22b), J-P. Duminy c Dhoni b Yadav 15 (17b, 1x6), Farhaan Behardien (not out) 35 (19b, 5x4, 1x6); Extras (lb-3, w-5): 8; Total (for five wkts. in 50 overs): 303.
Fall of wickets: 1-45 (de Kock), 2-104 (Amla), 3-152 (du Plessis), 4-197 (Miller), 5-238 (Duminy).
India bowling: Bhuvneshwar Kumar 10-0-67-0, Umesh Yadav 10-0-71-2, R. Ashwin 4.4-0-14-1, Amit Mishra 10-0-47-2, 0Stuart Binny 8-0-63-0, Suresh Raina 7-0-37-0, Virat Kohli 0.2-0-1-0.
India: Rohit Sharma c & b Tahir 150 (133b, 13x4, 6x6), Shikhar Dhawan lbw b Morkel 23 (28b, 5x4), Ajinkya Rahane c Miller b Behardien 60 (82b, 5x4), Virat Kohli c Morkel b Steyn 11 (18b), M.S. Dhoni c & b Rabada 31 (30b, 1x4), Suresh Raina c Duminy b Tahir 3 (3b), Stuart Binny c Amla b Rabada 2 (5b), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (not out) 1 (1b), Amit Mishra (not out) 0 (0b); Extras (lb-4, w-13): 17; Total (for seven wkts. in 50 overs): 298.
Fall of wickets: 1-42 (Dhawan), 2-191 (Rahane), 3-214 (Kohli), 4-269 (Rohit), 5-273 (Raina), 6-297 (Dhoni), 7-297 (Binny).
South Africa bowling: Dale Steyn 10-0-54-1, Kagiso Rabada 10-0-58-2, Farhaan Behardien 6-0-38-1, Morne Morkel 10-0-51-1, J-P. Duminy 4-0-36-0, Imran Tahir 10-0-57-2.