A long cherished dream finally unearthed itself out on the shores of South Africa, when Virat Kohli’s India emerged victorious at Port Elizabeth in the 5th ODI of the bilateral series. Not only was this the country’s first-ever series triumph in any format in the Rainbow Nation; it also marked a rare instance when the home team has emerged at the other end of the result. In 25 bilateral series’ that they have played at home of five matches or more, they had only lost to Australia twice, before succumbing to India this time around. What makes India’s feats even more admirable is that the Men in Green had been coming into this series on the back of a 17-match winning streak and it was highly expected that Kohli would face trouble trampling them this time around as well.

But all of that evaporated into thin air once India gelled together perfectly once again to eradicate the horrors of the crushing defeat they suffered in Johannesburg. Buoyed by the return to form of Rohit Sharma, the team started in right earnest and eventually rode the threat of their spin twins to oust Africa from the series and regain the numero uno position in the ICC rankings.

Rohit Sharma’s return to form

He had scored over 1200 runs in ODI cricket last year. In December, he rampaged to his third ODI double hundred, the most by any batsman in the world. He had just smashed a T20I century against Sri Lanka and hence, Rohit Sharma found a place in Kohli’s Test squad. The Indian skipper, a firm believer in form over reputation had no qualms of keeping Ajinkya Rahane – a more judicious and temperamental player in Tests overseas – on the sidelines, but the ODI opener could not do justice to the trust that had been reposed on him.

He failed to cross fifty even once and was so inept that Kohli was forced to get back Rahane for the last Test match. In the ODIs as well, he was unable to let the ghosts of former tours get over him and in the four matches, he was unable to cross twenty even once.

He averaged a paltry 11 in limited overs cricket in South Africa and just when one was pondering over his lack of effectiveness in overseas conditions; he set all doubts aside to make a fluent 115 in 126 deliveries in the fifth game.

He was hardly troubled by his nemesis Kagiso Rabad, who had snarled him up 6 times out of 8, and attacked the short balls thrown at him by Lungi Ngidid with ease. Though Morne Morkel’s additional bounce and height troubled him but after the initial jitters, Rohit was back at his attacking best. He smashed the lanky pacer towards the deep backward point when the ball was a fraction short and wide outside the off stump.

Rabada’s deliveries of 143kmph were swatted away like flies – dancing down the wicket to hit it over long-on.  They troubled him with the short deliveries and he, in turn, troubled him by sending it out of the park. He did get Kohli and Rahane run-out, and barely survived a few reviews himself but by the end, he was dismissed, with eleven boundaries and four sixes, he had once again sent the message of his importance in the Indian side.

The middle order fails. Again! 

India has a serious issue with their middle order and the sooner they realise this, the better. Ever since the Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2015, twenty players have turned out for India in the middle order – from four to seven – and they have managed to score just 4938 runs at an average of 35, with just 5 centuries amidst them. Amongst the top-7 teams, this is the lowest average by any middle order. In contrast, the top three have scored 3471 runs, which is almost 700 more runs than any other team.

This disparity was evident once again in Port Elizabeth, as after the dismissal of Rohit, the Indians could score just 38 runs more in 36 balls. Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit contributed 185 runs and the other six batsmen who took the field scored just 101 runs. Shreyas Iyer, with a 30, was the highest run-scorer in the middle order and definitely, this issue has been plaguing India for a long time. They lost 4 wickets for 29 runs and scored just 78 runs in the last 15 overs, which gives off deep warning signs.

The falling quality of the South African batsmen

Yes, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have trapped the South Africans in their spin web, but the declined dominance of the younger set of players in the Proteas squad has hardly escaped anyone. With the absence of Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock, the South Africans have hardly looked their mighty selves. Clearly, the pressure of captaincy has got to Aiden Markram, who was unable to find his feet against both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah and eventually fell to the latter, giving a leading edge with a straight bat to Kohli.

JP Duminy’s presence has forever been debated and he has hardly looked the bowler he was a few seasons ago. Other than de Villiers and Hashim Amla, the likes of Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris and Heinrich Klaasen have all looked below par and South Africa’s poor domestic structure continues to be in focus again.

The spin twins emerge as the greatest positive

Kohli was attacked vociferously first, for dropping Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravinder Jadeja from the LIOs despite their phenomenal Test records and secondly, for choosing to play with two spinners on conditions that usually assist the faster bowlers.

However, the wrist spinners, who do not rely on much of the wicket to get the turn, have vindicated Kohli’s belief in them and once again rose to the occasion in Port Elizabeth after the drubbing they received in the Pink ODI. Though they were smashed initially, the duo pulled it around in the latter half of the second innings to send the South Africans packing.

Once Amla was run-out, the lower order had no resistance to bat out the googlies and the wrong un’s from Yadav and Chahal. Miller was dismissed while going for a big one and the bowler, seeing his intent, slowed down the pace considerably to end up taking his leg-stump.


Phehlukwayo was bamboozled by Kuldeep’s wrong ‘un and Rabada fell trying to up the ante. In the very next delivery, he got Klaasen stumped, who hardly bothered to read the turn of the ball and was instead deceived by the flight of the ball. He picked his third wicket in the over when he sent back Tabraiz Shamsi and Chahal completed the proceedings by dismissing Morkel. India ran home with a comfortable 73-run win as the South Africans collapsed from 166/4 to 201 all out in less than eight overs.

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