TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien climbed a mountain in the Himalayas on Friday. And when they got to the summit they could look down on a victory that, for most of the match, would have seemed the stuff of minds bent by altitude sickness.
Duminy’s dazzling, two-runs-a-ball, unbeaten 68 – 42 of them smote in sixes – and Behardien’s understated 32 not out took SA past India’s total of 199/5 with seven wickets standing and two balls to spare in the first Twenty20 in Dharamsala.
Considering Shikhar Dhawan’s runout was SA’s only success until the 16th over of India’s innings, that Rohit Sharma scored 106, and that Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis were back in the hut by the 11th over of SA’s reply, that result represents performance at its peak.
“What a great game of cricket – 200 runs for both teams,” Du Plessis said. “And what a great start to the tour for us.”
Indeed. Another win in Cuttack on Monday and SA can chalk up success in the first of the three series they will play in India.
A deluge of dew, an unusually willing pitch for Indian conditions, and a ground that looked not much bigger than a frisbee made bowling a nightmare for both teams.
Rohit took full advantage by scoring a century for the ages, and the second one by an Indian in the format. Unhappily for SA, the first one was also hammered against them by Suresh Raina in St Lucia during the 2010 World T20.
SA struggled to separate Rohit and Virat Kohli in a second-wicket stand that ballooned to 138 and in which the runs flew at more than 10 to the over.
But a ball-change in the 16th over rewrote the script. Armed with a dry weapon, Kyle Abbott had Kohli and then Rohit caught in the deep in the space of four deliveries.
That kept SA’s target to under 200 – just. But India remained the favourites, a status only reinforced when SA’s top three were sent packing with just 95 runs on the board.
The writing on the wall when Behardien walked out to join Duminy said SA needed 105 runs off 57 balls.
At that stage, Duminy had faced two deliveries for a single run. He faced half-a-dozen more balls before he pulled the trigger on his first six by heaving hard at left-arm spinner Axar Patel and depositing his offering beyond the midwicket ropes.
Patel was on the receiving end again in the 16th over, when Duminy hit him for a hattrick of sixes over midwicket.
All the while, Behardien scuttled and scrapped and subtly took whatever opportunities came his way to hunt and gather runs.
“We both said we have to take it on – we don’t want to die wondering after 20 overs,” Duminy said. “We knew if we could get it down to 10 or 11 runs (required) off the last over we had a good chance.”
SA needed 10 runs off the 20th over, and MS Dhoni did them a favour by handing the ball to S Aravind.
Three runs trickled off two balls but the issue was all but settled with the third ball when Aravind missed his length with the yorker he was aiming to bowl. Duminy drilled the resultant full toss into the crowd for six. Duminy clinched the win next ball with an almost ironic dab to leg for a single.
On a clear day, when SA play like they did on Friday, you really can see forever.