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South African spinners Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj choked the fame Indian batters in the first One Day International at Paarl. South African players celebrate the dismissal of Virat Kohli off Shamsi. Image Credit: ANI

India started as favourites in the One Day International (ODI) series and looked in control of the first ODI till the half way of South African innings. The hosts had lost Aiden Markram at the end of the 18th over and were struggling at 70/3, captain Temba Bavuma, on 25 off 47 balls, was looking for a partner to up the tempo of the innings.

He found Rassie van der Dusen an able ally, who got the scoreboard ticking from the third ball he had faced with a reverse sweep of Yuzvendra Chahal. The score at the end of 25 overs was 118/3 and the run-rate climbed to almost 5 from 3.80 in a matter of seven overs. Still there was no change of plan from captain KL Rahul, who seemed to be happy going through the motions of the game.

India had used their regular five bowlers and had Venkatesh Iyer, who had a good domestic outing in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, to be used as the sixth bowler. But Rahul was on his heels and never tried anything different to break the partnership. In the end van der Dussen and captain Bavuma both went on to score centuries and put up a partnership of 204 and South Africa ended at above par score of 296 for just four down from 58/3 in the 18th over.

India did have the chase in control when opener Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli were batting, as had been the case in the past, Kohli got out and India slipped from 152/3 in the 29th over to 188/6 with all their recognised batters back in the hut.

India, who are known to be good players of spin, were choked by Keshav Mahraj, who got the crucial wicket of Dhawan, and Tabraiz Shamsi, who got Kohli’s key wicket. The home skipper had read the slow nature of the wicket and used Makram for six overs, who ended up giving just 30 runs and the wicket of Rahul was a big bonus. In the end India were never in the chase and lost the game by 31 runs with South Africa going one up in the series.

Yes, this was Rahul’s first game as captain in ODI format for team India, but he was as defensive as he had been when captaining Punjab Kings in the Indian Premier League — running out of ideas and sitting back for the game to move on and waiting for the opposition to make a mistake.

Mistakes did happen, but from the Indian middle order batters, who did not know how to go about their chase and players like Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and debutant Venkatesh Iyer just threw their wickets away to hand South Africa an easy victory.

India had lost just won one game to South Africa in their last ten ODI matches, and that too a rain-effected game way back in 2018. But this loss might be the beginning of India’s downfall in ODI format thanks to the selectors, who felt Kohli can’t be India’s ODI captain anymore.