South Africa in India: Talking points of Cuttack T20

Published 10/05/2015, 3:28 PM EDT
The Proteas bowlers ripped apart the vulnerable Indian middle order.


The series is over for the hosts. The South Africans have convincingly hammered the mighty Indians on their home soil in the three-match T20 series by winning the Cuttack T20 and taking an unassailable lead 2-0. If the first match went down to the wire, the second T20 was a different spectacle. After being let down by the bowlers in the first match, the Indians would have gone into the second T20 with hopes of improving in the bowling and fielding department but a totally different drama unfolded itself. It was the batting unit that failed and was in tatters within the first half of the Indian innings.

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Having set a meager target of 93 for the Proteas, the Indians had too less to play for and faced an embarrassing defeat by the visitors. Essentially Sports lists out the talking points of the 2nd T20 of the Freedom series.

1. Spineless Indian middle and lower batting order.

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Rayudu got out to a straight full toss from Rabada. (Image courtesy: Star Sports)

Right from the beginning of the series, cricket experts have been wondering whether the Indian team will be able to make a balanced batting line-up with batsmen who are known to play at the top for their respective IPL franchises. The answer after the first two T20 stands a firm no! Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, being the openers for India in ODIs, were to open in the T20s as well. But the rest of the line-up has always been under a lot of questions. Following the failure of Shikhar Dhawan in the first T20, there were rumors that Virat Kohli might be promoted to open the innings or Dhawan might be replaced by Ajinkya Rahane, who has been one of the most consistent batsmen for India and has been opening for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL.

Captain MS Dhoni kept his batting line-up the same and the result was devastating. Indian top order fell cheaply and a spineless middle order summed up the Indian innings at just 92 runs. The Indian think-tank needs to find the right combination for the third T20 since there’s a big T20 season for India in future followed by the T20 World Cup. Rahane looks to be a better choice as an opener instead of Dhawan and Dhoni should probably stay down at number 6 or 7 to provide a little stability rather than trying too hard to find his long-lost blazing touch by coming in at number 5.2. Indians doubling their run-out mistakes from the first T20.

Kohli was run out today following a slight hesitation with Rohit Sharma. (Image courtesy: GettyImages)

If it was Shikhar Dhawan who got out following a poor call by Rohit Sharma in the first T20, this time Sharma had Kohli fall short of his crease. The very first ball that Kohli faced, the batting duo took on the fielder and a slight hesitation meant that Kohli has to show his back. Not just that, a few minutes later, Rohit himself was run out with a brilliant direct-throw by David Miller. These two run-outs pretty much set the game for the visitors and a small cameo from Suresh Raina held for a while, what eventually was a batting collapse for India. The batsmen, especially openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma need to communicate with each other properly to avoid any such instances in the future matches.3. Ashwin: The lone wolf

Ashwin took three wickets and provided India a crumb to cling on to.(Image courtesy: GettyImages)

Indian batting woes overshadowed the still-weak Indian bowling which again was indisciplined and lacked teeth. Dhoni had no other option but to go in with three specialist spinners in the second T20 since spin has always been India’s strength and the lack of pace in the Indian fast bowlers makes spinners’ job all more important. But apart from Ashwin, both Harbhajan Singh and Axar Patel looked pedestrian and failed to put any pressure of the South African batsmen.

Such is the misery of the Indian fast bowling, that even after having three specialist spinners in the playing XI, Dhoni went to Suresh Raina to throw a few overs. Not that the pitch was assisting the spinners a lot, but the sheer lack of pace makes it easy for the batsmen to play shots at will. Having Umesh Yadav or Varun Aaron would have surely given a little edge to Dhoni in terms of options available.4. Faf du Plessis’ captaincy rocked!

Faf’s captaincy reflected brilliant field placements and bowling changes. (Image Courtesy: Yahoo)

If Dhoni was having a hard time figuring his team’s batting and bowling combinations, his counterpart Faf du Plessis got everything right. Starting from bringing in Albie Morkel in place of Marchant de Lange added tremendous amount of experience to the bowling of South Africa. Also, giving the second over of the inning to Imran Tahir was a brave move.

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If the captain was gambling with his strategies, the players were backing him with great support. Two exceptional run-outs and great fielding by the Proteas tightened the screws on the Indians. The bowling changes that Faf applied by bringing in Albie Morkel too paid off well, who ended up taking three important wickets. Just goes to show how aggressive and wary a captain needs to be in this format of the game. Dhoni surely needs to learn a few things else he could well see curtains on his captaincy.5. Crowd brings shame to the nation.

Indian players sitting on the field waiting for the crowd havoc to be dealt with. (Image Courtesy: Reuters)

All was not over for the Indians after their embarrassing batting performance. If the South African bowlers made them question their batting abilities, the crowd showed no mercy on them while they were defending the small target. While the South Africans were cruising towards victory at 70-3 in 13.2 overs, the crowd started pelting down empty water bottles on the fielders. The game had to be stopped for about an hour until that section of the crowd was emptied.

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At one moment, there was a possibility that the umpires would have called off the match and decided the winner by means of D/L method. The poor show by the crowd not only means that players would feel demotivated by the reaction of their own nation’s fans but also that Cuttack might not see any further international matches being hosted there.

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Piyush Blaggan

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