Centurion: Heinrich Klaasen turned it on for South Africa here at the SuperSport Park on Wednesday night, even as everyone thought Manish Pandey and MS Dhoni, in particular, will walk away with the honours as well as the T20 series for India.
Thanks to his exploits and a cool-headed JP Duminy, South Africa won by six wickets to level the series 1-1 and keep it alive. The last match of the series and the tour will be played in Cape Town on February 24.
The South Africa wicketkeeper-batsman, promoted to bat at No. 4 in the hope of accelerating the run rate did his job with aplomb, hammering 69 off 30 balls to bring Proteas within striking distance. When he had walked in, the hosts were 38/2 in five overs, still needing runs at over 10 an over. By the time he was dismissed as the third Proteas batsman to fall, South Africa needed 58 runs off 41 balls at just over eight.
Importantly, he had wiped off a significant number of runs as the Indian bowlers cowered under pressure.
Skipper JP Duminy, who held one end up, kept rotating the strike and giving it back to the big-hitter. Duminy ended unbeaten on 64 (40 balls, 3x6, 4x4).
Klaasen hit seven sixes, clobbering five of them against ODI series hero leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, who was taken for 64 runs off his four overs.
There were only four dot balls in his spell. Klaasen’s ability to improvise came to the fore even as he didn’t bother about the feet movement getting the big hits from the crease.
Earlier, riding on a late 98-run fifth-wicket partnership between Manish Pandey (79 off 48 balls) and former skipper MS Dhoni (52 off 28 balls), India reached 188/4.
The total, it seemed at halfway, had put them in the driver’s seat and firm favourites to seal the match and series.
It had again been a story of inconsistent and poor bowling from South Africa as they allowed India to get to their eventual total even after finding the formula of restricting them.
When Suresh Raina was dismissed, India were 90 for four in the 11th over. It looked like the Proteas would finally restrict the Indians to a modest total. But what followed was a mess for them as poor field placements, some lucky as well as brilliant shots got India to their eventual score.
Dhoni scored a half-century at a strike rate of over 185, proving once again that he still has in him to get boundaries towards the end.
Manish Pandey had kept the scoreboard ticking while Dhoni was finding feet. Pandey hammered South Africa’s most successful bowler from the last match, Tabraiz Shamsi whereas Dhoni took 17 runs off Dane Paterson’s last over.
Paterson is known to be the death-overs specialist but he had no clue of how to contain the unorthodox Dhoni.
India had begun on wrong footing, losing Rohit Sharma early, but South Africa’s problems of bowling short and in the slot to the top order batsmen returned to haunt them as Chris Morris, after bowling a brilliant maiden with the new ball, allowed Dhawan to take 20 runs.