The opener finally comes good in South Africa to help the visitors clinch their first ODI series win in the Rainbow Nation
India, led by an inspirational Virat Kohli, scripted history by winning its first-ever series across formats on South African soil as it crushed South Africa by 73 runs, taking an unassailable 4-1 lead in the six-match ODI series.
No Indian men’s side since the first tour in South Africa back in 1992, has ever won a series across any format. They did win a one-off T20 match in 2006 — their first ever shortest format game but it was a single match event.
After a series of low scores, Rohit Sharma came good when it ultimately mattered as he scored 115 in India’s respectable total of 274 for seven on a sluggish St. George’s Park wicket.
South Africa did put up a fight before wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav (four for 57 in 10 overs) and Yuzvendra Chahal (two for 43 in 9.2 overs) found their bearings after a rare off-day to polish off the lower-order in a jiffy.
Hardik Pandya contributed, getting two for 30 with his seamers and then running out Hashim Amla with a direct throw, which decisively swung the match in India’s favour.
For Kohli, this is a significant milestone in his three-and-half years at the helm as this is also his first series win against a top nation on their soil. The victory helped India replace South Africa at the top of the International Cricket Council’s ODI rankings.
Spinners to the fore
The two wrist spinners once again proved to be a revelation as none save Amla could read them properly from their wrists.
Rohit’s 17th One-Day International century was his first major innings in three tours of South Africa.
In 19 previous innings across both Tests and One-Day Internationals, his previous highest score was 47 and he had scored only 249 runs at an average of 13.11.
Although he was the mainstay of the innings, Rohit was at least partially complicit in two run-outs, both of which happened after he sent his batting partner back.
The first run-out accounted for captain Virat Kohli, who made 36 — his lowest score of the series — in a second wicket stand of 105. Kohli called Rohit through for a risky single, then could not beat J-P Duminy’s direct hit at the bowler’s end.
Ajinkya Rahane was the second run-out victim, playing a ball to mid-on and almost reaching the other end of the pitch before realising Rohit was refusing a run.
Rohit hit 11 fours and four sixes in his 126-ball innings but should have been caught on 96 when Tabraiz Shamsi dropped a straightforward offering at third man off Kagiso Rabada.