JOHANNESBURG (TIP): South Africa brought Floyd-like edge to the word pink as they welcomed a clearly undercooked Indian side to the country with a 141-run hammering. Quinton de Kock, the baby face in baby pink, combined ferocity and cheek in his 135, and assisted by supporting fifties from Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy, gave India 359 to chase. On a pitch made to look placid by their bowlers, the India batsmen were on a hiding to nothing against a six-man pace attack that was at them from the start, when it took them 16 balls to even touch a Dale Steyn delivery. During that first spell, Steyn caused India more trouble than the visiting bowlers did in the whole South African innings. On their first day of international cricket on this trip, the India bowlers were given the best of conditions: they won the toss, bowled when the pitch was at its freshest, and avoided the dew.
However, with the exception of Mohammed Shami, they didn’t test the batsmen for long enough, and when they did their fielders were off their game. Amla could have been run out on 7, and should have been caught on 8, but was let off by the India openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. De Kock, too, survived a half chance early in the innings, but that was all impression the bowlers created. Amla started scratchily, he scored just 65 out of the 152-run opening stand, but de Kock looked in fine touch from the start. The third ball he faced was a leg-side half-volley from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and he tucked into it. The last ball of that over was short and wide, and was cut away for four more. Mohit Sharma at the other end produced a fine fourth over, but he saw a top edge from de Kock fall short of the diving Shami at third man, and Rohit at cover did not come in to take a loopy leading edge from Amla. Two overs earlier Dhawan had missed the stumps from pretty close at mid-on. Amla would rub it in by soon taking 14 off three balls to reach 23 off 29: a punch through cover, a walk across the stumps to play the pick-up over midwicket, and then a cut past point. De Kock needed no such acceleration, and his 27 off 23 had taken South Africa to 53 in nine overs.
Shami began with a maiden, and it was about the time when Dhoni goes to his spinners for control back in India. At the Wanderers, however, the ball didn’t grip and the pitch didn’t slow down; R Ashwin bowled too short, and Ravindra Jadeja too fast. It was not all milking from the opening pair: they found boundaries in six of the seven overs between Nos. 22 and 28. After 11 overs of spin for 62, MS Dhoni had to go to pace, not least because South Africa had called for an early Powerplay in the 30th over. An offcutter from Shami, and a mistimed chip from Jacques Kallis gave India two wickets in that 32-run Powerplay. During that period de Kock smacked a Mohit slower ball for six, and then took two singles to bring up his century. It was just a sign of things to come. As Dhoni went back to spin in the 36th over, de Kock and AB de Villiers began to push into a higher gear. Without any violence – mainly through chips over mid-off, a late cut and one slog sweep – de Kock went from 101 off 102 to his eventual 135 off 121. When Virat Kohli, who took de Kock’s return catch, gave the batsman a send-off, little did he know the wrath that awaited India. De Villiers and Duminy hit the bowlers around at will.
Most of it was just clearing the front leg, and smacking length balls to all the stands. De Villiers even hooked a six from one knee. This was a statement of intent: we can do what we please. The yorkers were few, the slower balls easily picked and dispatched, and de Villiers and Duminy added 105 in the 7.4 overs they batted together. Between them the two hit nine sixes and eight fours. De Villiers had scored 77 off 47 when he fell, which looked sedate in comparison to Duminy’s unbeaten 59 off 29. An even hundred came off the last six overs. Then it was over to the other wing of the welcome committee. Conditions couldn’t have looked more different. The ball began to seam, swing and bounce. Dhawan looked comfortable during two Lonwabo Tsotsobe overs, but top-edged the first ball from Morne Morkel. Steyn softened Rohit up well and proper, but it was Virat Kohli who fell first to a shortish delivery from Ryan McLaren that seamed away to take the edge. In the next two balls, McLaren delivered the good-old one-two to Yuvraj Singh: a bouncer into the crash helmet followed by a fuller one that took the top of off stump. Suresh Raina came in, didn’t fancy the strike, called Rohit through for a poor run. Rohit should have said no. He now had a lot of time to go over his innings. The contest was finished well before it became 65 for 4 in the 16th over. Even as South Africa bowled their less-menacing bowlers, MS Dhoni’s 65 only delayed the inevitable.