On the eve of the 4th ODI, the coaches and captains of both teams met. Pleasantries were exchanged and hands shaken. Kohli assured his RCB teammate that his team would pay a tribute to de Villiers in his comeback match. A bond was signed to keep the series alive.
What transpired was part of India’s plan to help the Proteas regain their lost confidence.
Winning the toss and batting first was one of the many acts of kindness that were to follow. Despite the thunderstorm forecast and knowledge that Duckworth–Lewis favours the team batting second, Kohli chose to bat first. He tried not to let the cat out of the bag at the toss when he apprised Michael Holding, “That’s something we don’t want to focus on.… Weather is not under anybody’s control. You don’t know whether the thunderstorm will hit or not.”
Adhering to the contrivance, Rohit Sharma gifted his wicket to Kagiso Rabada by prodding at an in-swinging delivery first up. He skillfully pushed at the ball with hard hands so much so that it could just reach Rabada’s hands, giving the impression that KG had pulled off a blinder.
In came Virat Kohli, the orchestrator of the entire plan. He paired up with Shikhar Dhawan to take the Indian innings forward. The skipper through his free flowing drives and meticulous running between the wickets gave the sense that order had been restored.
It was when he saw that the South African shoulders had begun to droop; he thought it to be the most opportune time to throw his wicket away. Which is why, he lobbed a simple catch to David Miller at short cover off Chris Morris. Why else would a batsman who barely plays the ball in the air before the slog overs try to go aerial on the first ball of a new spell?
Ajinkya Rahane came in next. As soon as Rahane found his feet, the Rain Gods were summoned as part of the pre-decided scheme of things. They came withal pomp and show with lightning leading the way. The Umpires were clandestinely suggested to suspend play.
Shikhar Dhawan has played enough cricket in his life to know that it’s ideal to get your eye in following a break before starting to tonk the ball. Regardless, he hit the third ball of Morkel’s over straight down the throat of de Villiers at mid off.
Ajinkya Rahane followed suit. Lungi Ngidi was bowling with two fielders in the deep, enough to suggest that he would pepper Rahane with some short stuff. The Mumbaikar calculated his shot to such perfection that Rabada – stationed at square leg – did not even have to move an inch to grab the ball.
Shreyas Iyer, stepping out to bat for the first time on the tour, only took a few deliveries before he began striving to hit every ball out of the park. This was done to make the hosts believe that they were bowling so well that Iyer despite using all his might could not clear the fence.
Subsequently, the stadium erupted to welcome MS Dhoni. Dhoni and Iyer then signed a pact not to hit any boundary till the last three overs. Iyer tried to violate this pact by slamming a four. Lord Whistle Phodu retaliated and he was holed out at cow corner.
Hardik Pandya who followed Iyer to the crease gave the South African Captain, the most difficult catch of his life, just to boost the morale of their entire team.
MS Dhoni then came into his own in the last two overs, clobbering some boundaries in his typical style. The bewildered crowd had only one question, “Why didn’t he do it a little earlier?”
Eventually, a total that threatened to go beyond 350, somehow crawled its way to 289. Even this looked a handful for the Proteas given the brilliance of the spin duo of Chahal and Yadav in the past matches. But India were not yet done with the list of their Christmas presents.
Markram and Amla got off to a solid start before the skipper missed a straight one from Bumrah which caught him plumb before the sticks. Amla tried to counter Kohli blow for blow by wasting a review as the players joined Markram to the pavilion. Play had to be stopped for the second time due to the coupled effect of lightning and rain.
The target was revised to 202 from 28 overs. The fans thought that this may prove to be an uphill task for the hosts as the required run rate increased from 5.8 to 7.2 after the D/L method was put to use. Kohli, however, chuckled in one corner.
JP Duminy who came in after Markram’s dismissal was trapped in front of the wickets on a straight ball from Kuldeep Yadav.
Hashim Amla continued to extend his contest against Kohli by chipping a ball to Bhuvneshwar Kumar at long off. Virat Kohli winked at Kumar to drop the catch but Bhuvi could not comprehend the gesture. As a result, he pulled off a stunner at the boundary to dismiss Amla. Kohli was so distraught with this effort that he made Bhuvneshwar bowl two overs less than his quota.
By presenting India with two quick wickets , the Proteas may have tried to return the favour but the Indians would show South Africa in due course that it was them, who were much more munificent.
As ABD, the comeback man, took the crease, India stepped up their level of generosity. Chahal was brought into the attack to give de Villiers some freebies so that he could get going. However, after cashing in 17 runs from the Chahal over, de Villiers became guilty conscience and walked away after losing his wicket to Pandya.
With two new batsmen - David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen – at the crease, the game was drifting towards India. It was at this point that Kohli became tense and assembled all players. He called for an augmentation in India’s bounteousness.
It was then that Shreyas Iyer dropped a sitter at square leg to give David Miller a reprieve. But Miller was hell-bent to throw his wicket away. A couple of balls later, he played all over a straight one from Chahal to find his stumps rattled. As he started walking off, Kohli and Chahal looked at each other and exchanged smiles. A surprise was still in store for the Proteas.
Aleem Dar was surreptitiously signaled to check for the no ball. Replays showed that Chahal had clearly overstepped and Miller had to come all the way back.
Realizing his discomfort against the spinners, Virat threw the ball to Hardik Pandya. This helped the left hander to get back in touch as he slammed Pandya for three consecutive boundaries. When Chahal came back in to the attack, he started bowling half trackers to further make life easier for Miller.
Finally, when the target came well within the reach of the Proteas, Kohli decided to give Andile Phehlukwayo some batting practice as well. Chahal obeyed his Captain and dismissed Miller leg before.
The entire Indian team then came together to cast a spell over Klaasen and Phehlukwayo. Both these players had been struggling to get bat on ball in the previous matches. At the Wanderers, they suddenly started unleashing a slew of boundaries. Phehlukwayo scored at a mind-boggling strike rate of 460, trouncing three sixes and one four in the five balls he faced.
The match wounded up in a canter with fifteen balls still remaining. As the players shook hands, South Africans could not help but extol India for their sheer magnanimity. At the end of the day, both sides seemed satisfied by their endeavor to spread awareness against breast cancer. After all, all of it was for a noble cause.