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India's Dinesh Karthik plays a lofted drive during his maiden half-century in the fourth Twenty20 match against South Africa in Rajkot on Friday. Image Credit: AP

Rajkot: Dinesh Karthik’s blazing half-century and four wickets by Avesh Khan led India to a series-levelling 82-run victory over South Africa in the fourth Twenty20 international on Friday.

Karthik smashed 55 off 27 deliveries to guide India to 169-6, a total their bowlers defended by dismissing South Africa for 87 and level the five-match series at 2-2 in Rajkot.

The Proteas slipped to their lowest ever T20 total, two lower than their 89 all-out against Australia at Johannesburg in 2020.

Crucial partnership

Avesh returned his T20 best figures of 4-18 as the hosts in Rajkot defended their total with ease for the second time in a row with the series decider on Sunday in Bengaluru.

The in-form Karthik set up the crushing victory with his maiden T20 fifty to lift India from a precarious 81-4 in the 13th over to take the attack to the opposition.

He put on a crucial 65-run stand with Hardik Pandya, who hit 46 off 31 deliveries, as the pair hammered the opposition bowlers to all parts of the ground.

The 37-year-old Karthik, who is enjoying his second coming with the national team, smashed nine fours and two sixes as he surpassed his previous best of 48 to make India plunder 73 runs from the final five overs. Returning fast bowler Lungi Ngidi took two wickets.

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Indian pacer Avesh Khan celebrates the wicket of South Africa's Keshav Maharaj. Image Credit: AFP

In reply, the visitors were never in the chase after skipper Temba Bavuma retired hurt on eight with an injured elbow and the team soon lost two wickets.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock was run out for 14 and Dwaine Pretorius out to Avesh in the fifth over.

Crucial wicket

Wickets kept tumbling and Harshal Patel raised the pitch at the nearly packed house after he bowled the dangerous David Miller for nine.

Avesh returned to take three wickets, including Rassie van der Dussen for 20 in the 14th over, to flatten South Africa on a seemingly tough pitch to bat.

Spinner Axar Patel got the ninth wicket to end South Africa’s innings in 16.5 overs as Bavuma, who sat in the dugout with an ice pack on his elbow, did not come out back to bat.