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It will be foolish to say India were denied a consolation win on Wednesday evening by intermittent rain. It would be safer to assume that although they were once again set a stiff target by the home team (302, thanks twin ODI tons: Quinton de Kock’s third consecutive and AB de Villiers’ 16th) this was India’s best chance to pull one back. South Africa had rested Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Jacques Kallis; the boundaries were short; and spells of rain after the first innings had ensured that the match, if it came to conclusion, would proceed with a reduction of overs. MS Dhoni’s side, however, were not given a last chance to taste victory ahead of the two-Test series.
But it was clear who had owned the ODI leg. By hitting his third successive hundred de Kock joined countrymen de Villiers and Herschelle Gibbs and Pakistan's Zaheer Abbas and Saeed Anwar as the fifth batsman to notch a hat-trick of ODI tons. The 20-year-old also became the highest aggregator (342 in three innings) in a bilateral series three-match series. Even more astounding is his conversion rate, which stands at four centuries and no fifties in 16 innings.
Ishant bowls well
It was unfortunate for India that de Villiers also chose to help himself to three figures. The pair rescued South Africa from a dodgy 28/3 in the ninth over through a boisterous 171-run association. India had earlier thrown the Proteas in a spot of bother when they sent back Hashim Amla, Henry Davids and JP Duminy, the latter two dismissed by Ishant Sharma. Ishant finished as India’s best bowler with figures of 4/40 from his 10 overs.
Amla was caught at mid-wicket on a casual flick off a leg-side full-toss; while Davids’ comeback and promotion to No.3 was terminated when he edged Ishant to Raina at first slip. The tall fast bowler struck again in the same over when Duminy offered Raina more catching practice.
India soon squandered the advantage. De Kock was dropped twice - on 37 and 43 – and Dhoni’s ploy of bringing in the spinners petered out into nothingness; R. Ashwin, Raina and Ravindra Jadeja were tackled with ease.
Ashwin was butchered by de Viliers for sixes, Virat Kohli’s not-quite-military medium proved expensive, and the seamers, when they came on for last spells, were clobbered when they chose length over the yorker. It had looked like a different game when de Kock and de Villiers were engineering a resurrection. De Kock was 37 when his pull off an Umesh Yadav half-tracker was put down by Ajinkya Rahane at short fine leg. A little later, his mis-hit off Ashwin was spilled by Yuvraj Singh, who had come charging in from mid-on.
India leaked 185 in the last 23 overs. De Villiers was particularly severe on Ashwin, sweeping and spooning him for maximums; de Kock’s carnage was spread across the bowling attack on offer. Both were dismissed trying to accelerate after reaching their respective hundreds, but David Miller’s 34-ball 56 kept up the pace and took the innings past 300.