AB de Villiers proved for the umpteenth time that no one in the world can match his batting skills whatever be the game’s format. His first century at Kanpur’s first ODI won the game for his country while a ruthless third of the 5-match series at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium had its own tale. Other than de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Faf Du Plessis also scored hundreds in posting a mammoth 438/4, the highest score by South Africa against India and also the highest ever at Wankhede. The rampaging South Africans spared no Indian bowler with Bhuvneshwar Kumar being thrashed for 106 runs in 10 overs. In response, India just managed a lesser margin of defeat than the 245-run loss handed to them by Sri Lanka at Sharjah’s final of Coca-Cola Champions Trophy 15 years ago.
For South Africa, it was great toss to win because in the last four matches, the team batting second had always lost. Though Hashim Amla was taken early, de Kock and du Plessis added 154 runs for the second wicket before de Kock got out for a superb 87-ball 109 in the 27th over. Skipper AB de Villiers joined du Plessis and together they took South Africa past 200 in 29 overs. While a score of 350-plus looked on cards, de Villiers had other ideas. As du Plessis held one end, de Villiers went on the assault mode. He reached his 50 off 34 balls and accelerating afterwards, took just 23 balls more for his next 50 runs. His whirlwind 119 was completed in mere 61 balls and contained 3 fours and 11 sixes. When de Villiers departed in 47th over, South Africa had already reached 398/3. Earlier, du Plessis had completely his century but retired after he developed cramps. In the remaining 20 balls, Miller, Behardien and Elgar took the score to 438/4. While Bhuvi Kumar conceded 106 in 10 overs, Mohit Sharma yielded 84 in his 7. No Indian bowlers could make any impression as South African batsmen piled up a mountain of runs.
For India, the weight of chasing 439 was too much by itself. On top of that, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott wouldn’t allow much leeway to Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. When India had reached a labored 22 in 5th over, Rohit fell to a desperate heave off Abbott with the edge flying to Imran Tahir at third-man. India were jolted yet again in 8th over, when the leaden-footed Virat Kohli tried to cut an overpitched delivery from Rabada and paid the price as de Kock brought off a marvelous catch. There was a semblance of revival, when Dhawan and Rahane produced a 112-run third wicket stand. At 156 in 23rd over, Dhawan got out. With the asking run-rate kept mounting, India’s victory was completely ruled out. When Suresh Raina fell as 4th wicket to a deadly leg-stump yorker from Rabada at 172 in 25th over, Dhoni remained as the last recognized batsman. Accurate bowling by South Africans frustrated Indian batsmen and loss of patience resulted in the last six wickets falling for just 52 runs. With India losing by 214 runs, South Africa won their first-ever bilateral series in India 3-2. For scoring 3 centuries in 5 matches, de Villiers was rightly adjudged as the player-of-the-series.
While India lost shamefully against South Africa at Mumbai, Afghanistan made history at Bulawayo by beating the test-playing Zimbabwe 3-2 in the ODI series on October 24, 2015. After Zimbabwe led 2-1 after three matches, Afghanistan bounced back with spirited performance in 4th and 5th ODI games to steal the series from the hosts. In 4th ODI on October 22, Zimbabwe batted first and could only muster 184/8 against some fine bowling by Dawlat Zadran, Amir Hamza and Rashid Khan. Sikandar Raza’s 86 off 113 balls was the highest score by a Zimbabwean. In their 185-run chase, Afghanistan were helped by an 81-ball 80 by Mohammad Shahzad and leveled the series 2-2 with a 3-wicket victory. In the decider on October 24, the Afghanis batted first and posted 245/9 in 50 overs with useful contributions from all top-order batsmen. When Zimbabwe began the 246-run chase, it was Dawlat Zadran again who caused the havoc. Zadran, Rashid Khan and Amir Hamza reduced Zimbabwe to 51/5 in 15th over. Sean Williams with his 102 off 124 balls tried a revival but the target was still too far at 140/7 in 37th over. Although Williams still struck well from one end, he kept losing support from his colleagues as Afghan bowlers struck at regular intervals. At 165/7, Zadran came back to make it 172/9 and when Rashid Khan removed Williams at the same score, Afghanistan made history by winning by 73 runs and clinching the series 3-2.
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