Indians hold Pro20 debut nerves

Dinesh Karthik’s calm at the death in the Bullring brought India a six-wicket victory in their first ever Twenty20 International.

Batting first, the South Africans made a stuttering start. Despite Graeme Smith finally overcoming his inability to take any runs whatsoever off Zaheer Khan, Loots Bosman edged to Sachin Tendulkar at slip in the third over.

From then on, regular Proteas wickets fell, each breakthrough stifling the hosts’ efforts. Herschelle Gibbs thumped Ajit Agarkar straight to Suresh Raina in the covers, before Zaheer resumed normal service against Smith. When AB de Villiers followed a six over point with a thin edge behind, South Africa were 41/4.

The home side found a pair of rebuilders in Justin Kemp and Albie Morkel, who steadied the innings before Kemp was trapped leg-before by Tendulkar. Morkel then opened up, striking three sixes in his 18-ball stay before trying one big hit too many and finding Dinesh Mongia on the boundary. A brace of run-outs around Johann van der Wath’s steady 21 ended the South African innings on an insufficient-looking 126 for 9.

With Shaun Pollock, Andrew Hall, Andre Nel and Makhaya Ntini all missing from the SA attack, the new ball pair of van der Wath and Charl Langeveldt still found an early victim. Tendulkar chopped on against Langeveldt, before Mongia joined Virender Sehwag and India began to ease towards their asking rate… until the athleticism of Ashwell Prince and Langeveldt combined to run out Sehwag on 34.

Mahendra Dhoni departed second ball in a similar fashion to Tendulkar, without troubling the scorers, before Dinesh Karthik and Mongia edged their side further onwards, keeping the run-rate and asking rate in near-synchronisation. Karthik was fortunate to be reprieved when Justin Kemp thought he had taken a catch at slip – and umpire Brian Jerling agreed – only for Karthik’s protest and a referral to the third umpire prove the delivery had been a bump ball.

The introduction of Robin Peterson with three overs remaining and 19 required changed the equation again, as Mongia swung wildly at the left-arm spinner’s first three balls. De Villiers was unlucky to see a stumping appeal turned down first time around, the Indian’s reverse sweep missed the second and then the third went nowhere but aerial.

Karthik remained unflustered throughout van der Wath’s penultimate over, mixing impudent dabs with inexplicable leaves, and with six balls remaining the visitors needed nine.

Then Karthik fell onto one knee, disposed of Peterson into the stands at midwicket, and they only needed three runs; runs that they acquired with no further alarms as Karthik fittingly scored the winning runs to bring India their first win on tour. With two ODIs remaining, can they extend this boost into the 50-over game? We’ll find out in Centurion on Sunday.

South Africa 126/9
Albie Morkel 27, Justin Kemp 22, Johan van der Wath 21
Ajit Agarkar 2/10, Zaheer Khan 2/15

India 127/4
Dinesh Mongia 38, Virender Sehwag 34, Dinesh Karthik 31*
Charl Langeveldt 2/20, Robin Peterson 1/11

India won by six wickets

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Dinesh Karthik (India)

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