Ngidi four-for keeps India to 274 despite Rohit ton


Innings India 274 for 7 (Rohit 115, Ngidi 4-51) v South Africa
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It was Virat Kohli in the first and third ODIs, Shikhar Dhawan in the fourth and finally, Rohit Sharma, who has not managed a half-century in eight innings on this tour or over 20 in the ODIs, who raised his bat for a hundred. But his innings was not without its drama.

Rohit witnessed two run-outs at the other end, including that of captain Kohli, survived a review, was dropped in the 90s and then sparked a mini-collapse as India lost four wickets for only 29 runs. Their strong start fell away in the last 15 overs, scoring only 78 runs as South Africa found their way back into the match. Lungi Ngidi was the star, picking up a career-best 4 for 51.

With Morne Morkel – who was going be left out of the XI for Tabraiz Shamsi, but later included because Chris Morris picked up a back injury – and Kagiso Rabada opening the bowling, India found it hard scoring runs. Then Dhawan flayed Rabada through the covers to begin an innings that dealt in boundaries.

Rabada ramped up his pace to 150kph, Dhawan responded with a pull to square leg and a cut over the slip cordon. It didn’t take long for Rohit to follow suit. Despite Rabada having the better of him six times in eight innings on this tour, Rohit went down the track and launched the fast bowler over long-on. Rabada hit back with the next ball, literally, and struck Rohit on the box before having the last laugh over Dhawan, who pulled straight to deep square leg and was sent off in an animated fashion.

India finished the first Powerplay on their joint fourth-highest score batting first in almost three years since the 2015 Word Cup – 61 for 1 – and Rohit showed few signs of slowing down, especially against the short ball. Ngidi offered too many and was pulled over deep square twice and then escorted to the point boundary as the batsman offered thanks for such freebies.

South Africa opted to use JP Duminy as second spinner and introduced him in the 17th over and his first two balls were hit for four. Shamsi came on from the other end and Rohit’s fifty came up off him, at a run-a-ball. Together, Duminy and Shamsi tried to create some pressure but too many boundary balls meant they could not sustain it. Their best hope of doing something special was when Shamsi thought he had Kohli stumped in the 23rd over, but replays showed the Indian captain may have had some part of the back spike behind the line.

Ultimately, Duminy removed Kohli but not in the way he would have imagined. Rohit tapped a Morkel delivery off the back foot and refused a run but Kohli was already on his way. Duminy had enough time to collect the ball from point and underarm it directly onto the stumps.

Kohli’s dismissal quietened Rohit and India only scored 23 runs off the next 38 balls before Ajinkya Rahane was run-out. He was left stranded after tapping the ball to Morkel at mid-on; Rohit once again was not keen on the quick single.

India were 180 for 3 with 18 overs left, so 300 was still within sight but Rohit had to rebuild with the middle and lower order. Getting his own milestone appeared to be the first mission and South Africa seemed determined to deny him. They appealed for caught behind when Rohit pulled Phehlukwayo and reviewed the umpire’s call of not out but replays showed the ball had hit the thigh pad. Rabada got one to seam away from him and beat an attempted guide to third man and then on 96, Rohit tried the ramp shot and offered a straightforward catch to Shamsi, who could not hold on. His hundred eventually came up off 107 balls at the end of the 36th over, giving him enough time to make it really count.

Instead, there was almost another run-out after Rohit inside-edged and Shreyas Iyer responded a little late to his call for a single. There were some tentative nudging and nurdling until Rohit was undone by extra bounce from Ngidi and caught behind. Hardik Pandya bottom-edged the next ball to Heinrich Klaasen and Iyer top-edged Ngidi to the wicketkeeper as well.

India had lost three wickets for two runs in 14 balls and needed MS Dhoni to finish off. As has been the case throughout the series, he could not get going and he gave Ngidi a fourth scalp when he was caught at mid-off. South Africa only conceded 55 runs in the last 10 overs and will believe they have a chance of staying in the series and holding on to the No.1 ranking, which they can retain with victory in this match.