On a pacy, bouncy pitch, where many batters were made to look ordinary as pacer Lungi Ngidi blew away the Indian top-order with hard lengths and extra bounce to pick 4/29 while Wayne Parnell took 3/15 in a superb Proteas bowling show, Suryakumar fought hard, hitting six fours and three sixes at a strike-rate of 170 to bring up his 11th T20I fifty.
He timed his shots well and shared a stand of 52 for the sixth wicket with Dinesh Karthik, who contributed with only six runs in the partnership, to lead India’s recovery from 49/5 and give something for the bowlers to defend.
Electing to bat first, after nine dot balls, Rohit Sharma got off the mark with a pulled six off Kagiso Rabada over fine leg. In the next over, KL Rahul sweetly smacked a full ball from Parnell over deep mid-wicket.
Rohit then flicked a Rabada full toss on pads through square leg, before miscuing a pull on a short ball from Ngidi in the next over back to the bowler. One brought two for Ngidi in the fifth over as Rahul nicked a back of the length ball to first slip.
Post power-play, Virat Kohli hit successive boundaries off Ngidi — a drive over extra cover was followed by a whip through mid-wicket. But hard length and extra bounce helped Ngidi had the last laugh as Kohli tried to pull a bouncer and was caught by deep fine leg running to his right.
More trouble came for India as Deepak Hooda flashed hard at a wide ball from Anrich Nortje without any footwork, and sent a thin edge behind to the keeper in the eighth over. Short ball continued to undone India as Hardik Pandya pulled off Ngidi in the ninth over, but was caught by a forward diving Rabada at fine leg taking a superb low catch.
But Suryakumar continued to play his shots, whipping Nortje for six over backward square leg while cutting Keshav Maharaj behind point for four. With Maharaj not getting much turn, Suryakumar danced down the pitch to smack a straight six over the bowler’s head.
When Ngidi dropped short on the first ball of his final spell, Suryakumar moved across to get in line of the ball and pulled handsomely over fine leg. He then got his fifty in 30 balls with a straight drive past mid-on off Ngidi.
But Dinesh Karthik struggled to time the ball from other end and fell as top-edge on pull was caught by backward point off Wayne Parnell, breaking the 52-run partnership. Suryakumar, though, was unperturbed as he took back-to-back fours off Maharaj in the 17th over – outer edge on cut went past keeper, while a scoop on one knee went above fine leg.
Suryakumar’s sublime stay continued when he slammed a baseball-style smash off Rabada over the bowler’s head for four. But Parnell struck twice in the penultimate over, having Ravichandran Ashwin caught a mid-on on the pull and then seeing Suryakumar miscuing the same shot on a slower ball to mid-off.
Despite the run-out of Mohammed Shami for nought, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh ensured that India managed to cross the 130-mark.
Brief Scores: India 133/9 in 20 overs (Suryakumar Yadav 68; Lungi Ngidi 4/29, Wayne Parnell 3/15) against South Africa
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