Pathan powers India to a thrilling win in 3rd ODI
Pathan proved that fortune favours the brave during his breezy 50-ball 59-run knock as he took his chances and hammered the South African bowlers to give India a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.
Chasing 221 for win, Pathan teamed up with Suresh Raina (37 off 47) to bring India back in contention with less than a run-a-ball 75-run sixth wicket stand after the visitors were reeling at 93 for five at one stage.
After Pathan`s dismissal in the 40th over, Harbhajan Singh (23 not out) took the onus on him to take India home and with little help from Zaheer Khan (14) and Ashish Nehra (6 not out) surpassed South Africa`s score with 10 balls to spare last night.
Morne Morkel (3/28) was unplayable throughout the innings while Dale Steyn (2/31) produced the fire upfront for South Africa.
Earlier, JP Duminy (52) and debutant Faf du Plessis (60) scored risk-free half centuries before Indian bowlers made a remarkable comeback in the final batting powerplay to bowl out South Africa for 220.
Electing to bat, Graeme Smith made a patient 43 off 79 balls before Duminy and du Plessis steadied South Africa`s ship with a 110-run fifth wicket stand that came off 125 balls after they were precariously placed at 90 for four.
But the highlight of the South African innings was India`s disciplined bowling attack and catching in the field.
Credit should go to the Indian new ball pair of Zaheer (3/43) and Munaf Patel (2/42), who made life difficult for the South African batsmen from the word go.
Off-spinner Harbhajan (2/23) was not to be left behind as he controlled the proceedings in the middle overs before Zaheer and Munaf returned at the death to bowl out South Africa in 49.2 overs.
The final batting powerplay backfired for South Africa as they lost as many as four wickets for just 25 runs.
To add to skipper Smith`s woes, South African batters could manage only 48 runs in the last 10 overs losing as many as six wickets.
Murali Vijay`s (1) poor form at the top of the order continued as he fell in the second over of the innings to start India`s chase on a disappointing note.
Vijay was brilliantly caught by an athletic Dale Steyn of his own bowling after the right-hander was done in by a delivery that stopped a bit on him on a slow Newslands track.
But Virat Kohli (28) started from where he left in the previous match and made his intentions clear with three classy boundaries after arriving at the crease.
The pair of Rohit Sharma (23) and Kohli played cautiously without taking any undue risks but when bad balls came their way, they dispatched them to the boundaries with consummate ease.
The duo were especially severe on first change Wayne Parnell as the left-arm pacer bled 21 runs in his opening three overs.
But the dangerous looking 76-ball 52-run partnership was cut short by an accurate Morne Morkel, whose twin blow in successive overs brought South Africa back into the game.
Kohli was Morkel`s first victim in the last ball of the 15th over. The in-form right-hander flashed hard at a good length Morkel delivery that extracted good amount of nip after pitching, only to edge it to AB de Villiers behind the stumps.
And then in his next over the lanky right-arm pacer cleaned up Sharma, who inside edged one onto the stump, to see India in a spot of bother at 61 for three.
In between, Yuvraj Singh (16) marked his arrival at the crease in style carassing Lonwabo Tsotsobe to the extra cover fence to open his account.
But off-spinner Johan Botha struck gold in his second over in the form of Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who edged a short delivery to de Villiers.
However, the 23rd over from Parnell, which produced 10 runs, somewhat relived India`s pressure. Brought back into the attack, the left-arm pacer was once again at the receiving end as Raina hit back-to-back boundaries of his first two balls.
Smith then decided to replace Parnell with Duminy and the ploy worked for the hosts as, after his exploits with the bat, the right-arm spinner tasted success with the ball as well, getting Yuvraj lbw in his third ball of the innings.
Pathan, who came into the team in place of injured Sachin Tendulkar, lived dangerously from the onset but his aggressive instict bore fruit for India.
He took Botha to task, hitting him for two fours in the 28th over and then followed it up with three towering sixes of the off-spinner to make it the most expensive over of the series so far.
From there on, the duo played sensibly with occasional rash shots from Pathan.
Forced back into the attack in the 37th over, Morkel once again produced the body blow to the visitors getting the wicket of Raina as he top-edged one to de Villiers.
But as was the case throughout the innings, Parnell turned out to be the weaklink in South Africa`s bowling department, going for 10 runs in his comeback over.
Luck also favoured India towards the end as, needing 43 runs to win, Harbhajan was handed a life when a jumping Duminy failed to latch on to a tough chance at point off Morkel.
The table, however, turned around completely in the next over when dangerman Pathan was brilliantly caught by an oustanding Morkel at third man off Steyn.
But gutsy Harbhjan was in no mood to give up and clobbered Parnell over extra cover to reduce the margin to 19.
There was more drama in store when Zaheer was caught at mid-off by Smith off Tsotsobe but Harbhajan and Nehra ensured there was no further hiccup for India.
Earlier, starting the proceedings, Zaheer produced a brilliant first over as he exracted swing and bounce to beat South African captain Smith a number of time.
Smith survived a confident leg before wicket appeal in Zaheer`s second over with a ball that swung in sharply but the umpire was unmoved. Television replays suggested that the ball would have gone over the stump.
India fired the first salvo in the seventh over when Zaheer bowled Amla (16) with a gem of a delivery. Amla tried to drive through covers but the ball angled in and took an inside edge to knock down his off stump.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni introduced his specialist spinner Harbhajan as early as the 12th over of the match and he troubled Smith in his very first over.
Harbhajan struck in his second over by getting rid of Colin Ingram (10) to reduce the Proteas to 49 for two.
Ingram, who has not been among the runs, stepped forward to defend but only succeeded in edging the ball to Virat Kohli at slip, who pulled off a one-handed blinder.
The hosts then lost the wickets of de Villiers (16) and Smith in quick succession to find themselves in a spot of bother at 90 for four.
Pathan struck in his very first over by getting rid of de Villiers with Zaheer taking a superb running catch in wide long on.
Harbhajan then accounted for Smith who attempted a sweep but failed to time the ball and Kohli took his second catch at slip.
Then Duminy and debutant du Plessis joined hands to ressurect the South African innings with the 100-plus partnership.
Both Duminy and du Plessis were in no mood to take risks and toiled hard for their runs which came mostly in singles and twos. The duo`s hardship can be gauged from the fact that they struck just three boundaries during their partnership.
With both the batsmen set at the crease, South Africa took their final batting powerplay in the 45th over but the decision misfired as both du Plessis and Duminy made hardly any impact, departing when their team needed them the most.
Du Plessis, who was struggling with cramps, was the first to show some signs of urgency, lofting Munaf over mid-off for a four in the 45th over before departing in the next ball in search one too many. He was caught by an agile Kohli at the edge of the circle as the batsman went for an inside out shot over cover.
Duminy was then cleaned up by Zaheer in the next over to make matters worst for the home team. New man in Wayne Parnell was run out two balls later in search of a double.
Johan Botha, Dale Steyn and last man Lonwabo Tsotsobe were no better with the bat as they departed in quick succession towards the end.