India 105 for 3 (Gill 49, Iyer 28*, Fortuin 1-20) beat South Africa 99 (Klaasen 34, Kuldeep 4-18, Washington 2-15) by seven wickets
No team has defended than 125 in a 50-over match, while South Africa’s lowest successful defence remains 129. They had to attempt to better that without their pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada, who was rested, and Wayne Parnell, who played in the previous two matches but made way for the other allrounders Andile Phehlukwayo and Marco Jansen in this one.
India reached the 100-run target in the 20th over. The chase was as routine as they come after India had already won the match in the field with a bowling performance that exposed South Africa’s perennial weakness against spin, and what appears to be a return of the yips that creep in in pressure situations.
Their line-up was completely blown away by spin, although it may not be very effective during the T20 World Cup in Australia. However, it has still left big questions about their readiness for the big tournament, where they are grouped with all three heavyweight subcontinent sides – Bangladesh, Pakistan and India – and may also be joined by Sri Lanka after the first round.
Washington opened the bowling with Mohammed Siraj, and immediately found spin. He troubled Quinton de Kock, who was beaten by a ball that just passed his outside edge, and then top-edged a paddle that went over Sanju Samson and the lone slip. But de Kock soon slashed at a wide ball and sent it straight to Avesh Khan at short third.
Siraj was less problematic at first, and Janneman Malan took advantage when he erred in length. Malan sent an overpitched ball through the covers, a short one through square leg and then hit the shot of the innings in terms of timing and placement: a stunning drive. But his fun did not last long. Malan mistimed the next ball to Avesh at deep square, who had just been placed in the position.
By that point, Reeza Hendricks had successfully reviewed being given out lbw to Avesh, when ball tracking showed it was too high, but couldn’t make his reprieve count. He was undone by a Siraj short ball which he sliced to short fine. South Africa finished the powerplay on 26 for 3 – their joint-lowest score until the first ten overs since 2008.
Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen saw off five boundary-less overs before Markram’s trail by spin failed. Unlike in the first ODI, when he was foxed by Kuldeep, in this match it was the left-arm orthodox spinner Shahbaz who drew him forward and found the edge.
South Africa’s boundary drought ended when Siraj misfielded a Klaasen back-foot punch at mid-on, before Klaasen earned his next four when he went back to pull a Shahbaz half-tracker through midwicket. He stayed in his crease to cut at a Washington short ball but just when his partnership with Miller was starting to stabilise South Africa, Miller missed an arm ball from Washington and was bowled.
Andile Phehlukwayo misread a googly from Kuldeep and played on, which might not do his chances of replacing Dwaine Pretorius in the T20 World Cup squad any good. Marco Jansen, the other contender for Pretorius’ place, gave a better account of himself and sent Kuldeep over long-on for the innings’ only six.
But Klaasen, who did not play one shot on the front foot, couldn’t stay with him and was beaten by a Shahbaz ball that spun away before he was bowled, after which Kuldeep cleaned up the tail. He struck Bjorn Fortuin under the knee roll with a loopy delivery and then beat Anrich Nortje with a googly off back-to-back deliveries. Kuldeep’s hat-trick ball was against Lungi Ngidi, who, however, blocked it.
Jansen then took South Africa close to 100 with a reverse sweep off Shahbaz but then tried to slog sweep Kuldeep and hit him to deep square.
Ishan Kishan was the other India batter who did not capitalise and was caught behind off Fortuin for 10. Gill went on to 49 – his highest score of the series – and executed himself particularly well against the short ball. He cut and pulled well, and had Shreyas Iyer – the series’ highest run-getter for company – as India marched towards victory.
Iyer had one nervy moment when he upper cut Nortje to the tall Jansen at deep third. Jansen jumped, got fingertips to the ball, realised he was going over the boundary and tossed the ball back up, but then lost control as he made his way back on to the field. The end result was six runs, an angry Nortje and a disappointed Miller, which just about summed up South Africa’s series.
Iyer went on to slam Fortuin straight down the ground for two fours in three balls, and Gill sent an Ngidi half volley through the covers for his eighth four. Gill was only one away from fifty when he played around a full Ngidi delivery and was struck in front of middle stump to be given out lbw. Iyer hit the winning runs when he lofted Jansen for six over long-off.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent