First T20: Rinku Singh underlines his claims for a World T20 berth again

South Africa look a different kettle of fish in home conditions

Despite stand-in skipper Suryakumar Yadav's record-breaking fifty and Rinku Singh's (pictured) impressive 68*, India couldn't secure a win.  (photo: BCCI)
Despite stand-in skipper Suryakumar Yadav's record-breaking fifty and Rinku Singh's (pictured) impressive 68*, India couldn't secure a win. (photo: BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The rains came back to haunt the India-South Africa white ball series, but South Africa managed to show they can be a tough proposition to beat at home. It’s however a pity from Indian perspective that the two outstanding half centuries by stand-in skipper Suryakumar Yadav and Rinku Singh eventually didn’t come for a winning cause. 

There was a sense of occasion in the efforts of both SKY (56 off 36 balls) and Rinku (68 not out off 39). While Surya overtook Virat Kohli’s record of being the fastest among Indian batters to reach 2000 T20I runs, it was Rinku’s first fifty in international cricket – and what a way it was to reach the landmark. Their 70-run partnership for the fourth wicket, in overcast conditions after both the openers fell for ducks, displayed a fearlessness which can be an asset in the T20 World Cup next year. 

A solid start is often called for in an overseas tour and it looked ominous with India at six for two with both the in-form openers gone, but Surya launched into a counterattacking mode in his trademark style. Rinku, meanwhile, was a revelation against a quality attack – taking time initially before he started asserting himself with some lovely square off the wickets and the lofted drives over the bowler’s head for sixes.  

Surya, meanwhile, vindicated that he had been the world No.1 ranked T20 batter for a reason - collecting a chunk of his runs behind the wicket. His three sixes came as he got inside the line of the ball ever so quickly to send them ball over the ropes - two in the fine leg region and one over midwicket. Such audacious shots, as the batter was seen explaining during a mid-innings interview on TV, are actually a product of intensive practice sessions. 

India’s total of 180 looked a par score and the revised target of 152 off 15 overs after the rain delay was a challenging one for the hosts. However, Reeza Hendricks – who looked imperious in the limited opportunities that he got during the World Cup in India – set the tone in the powerplay with a flurry of sixes and cameos from Matthew Breetzke and skipper Markram. When the later departed with South Africa at 96 for two in the eighth over, the course of the match looked set. 

While it seemed that batting became relatively easier after the rains, the Indian seamers lacked the wherewithal to contain the rival openers in the powerplay. The pace of Arshdeep Singh and Mukesh Kumar, both of whom operate at around 130-135 kmph, were not enough to trouble the batters despite the movement.  Mohammed Siraj, a senior partner under the conditions, need to take the initiative in the white ball leg of the tour as they are not getting Jasprit Bumrah back till the Test series and Mohammed Shami is out of the equation with an injury.    

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