TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IT was a tale of two centuries but the happy ending was snatched by Kagiso Rabada, who bowled SA to a wonderful win in the first one-day international against India in Kanpur on Sunday.
AB de Villiers’ 104 not out rocketed SA to 303/5, the highest ODI total at Green Park. India’s fire burnt deep thanks to Rohit Sharma’s 150. But SA snuffed it out at 298/7 to sneak home by five runs.
Asked to defend 11 off the last over against opponents powering to victory, Rabada took wickets with consecutive balls and kept the runs down to five.
One of those scalps belonged to MS Dhoni, he of the legend larger even than the famous straight six he hit to clinch the 2011 World Cup final.
“I was feeling a bit of nerves because MS Dhoni was at the other end of the pitch and we all know how destructive he can be,” Rabada said.
Rabada pitched the fateful delivery short and, importantly, straight at his prey. Dhoni, struggling with an abdominal injury that limited him to one boundary in 30 balls, heaved hard.
The top edge arched into the sky. Rabada was there to meet and greet it as it descended. The catch claimed, he hurled the ball into the ground with a triumphant roar that rent the sudden silence in the stands.
Rabada’s next delivery, also short, produced another top edge, this one Stuart Binny’s. Hashim Amla sped in from square leg to avoid a collision with the rampant Rabada and take the catch.
A hattrick loomed. Rabada had been shot in this movie before – in Dhaka on July 10 when he took 6/16, including a hattrick, on his ODI debut against Bangladesh. Then, SA’s opponents batted first. This time there was a match to be won.
“There were a lot of things going through my mind but I wasn’t thinking about the hattrick,” Rabada said.
One of those things happened in the 45th over, when Rabada flubbed a catch on the square leg fence that would have ended Sharma’s innings at 132.
“I owed it to the team because I dropped Rohit on the boundary,” Rabada said. “It could have turned out badly on another day.”
What a day it was. De Villiers was vintage De Villiers, all effortless innovation and emphatic nonchalance. His best shot was also his most unorthodox.
Bhuv Kumar’s first ball of the 49th was a scudding full toss that De Villiers somehow middled and muscled onto the top of the sightscreen opposite for six.
How and where he found the power to do that with a nano-second’s notice and the ball at an awkward height should remain unknowable; magic must be copyrighted.
Sharma’s shots shimmered like mirages in the 38-degree heat, the most memorable of them a six – half swept, half pulled, another half something else – swatted over square leg off Dale Steyn in the 46th.
The stroke made Sharma’s score the highest in an ODI chase against SA. He is the only man to score 150 against them in their last 54 matches in the format and just the second player to do so in five years.
When will we see his like again? Perhaps on Wednesday, when the teams clash in Indore.