Whether it’s the purposeful sprint to the middle, the twirling of the bat or the gum chewing, Suryakumar Yadav is currently oozing confidence. And with each game that India play, his stature within the set-up ahead of the T20 World Cup is growing.
In the second T20I against South Africa at the Baraspara Cricket Stadium here on Sunday, he slammed 61 off just 22 balls to help India pile up 237/3, claim a 16-run victory and take an unassailable 2-0 series lead. India registered their fourth-highest total in T20Is while Suryakumar’s half-century off just 18 deliveries was the joint second-fastest by an Indian batter.
The final game is in Indore on Tuesday.
David Miller (106*–47 b, 8×4, 7×6) and Quinton de Kock (69*–48 b, 3×4, 4×6) came up with a solid riposte, stitching together an unbeaten partnership of 174 after the visitors were 47/3. Like the South Africans, the Indian bowlers too struggled in the death overs. Left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh provided two breakthroughs in the second over as South Africa began their chase but ended up giving 62 runs in his four overs.
It was pretty close to a perfect outing for the Indian batters though. Virat Kohli scored an unbeaten 49 off 28 balls, raising a 102-run partnership in 40 balls with Suryakumar. The 96-run opening partnership between KL Rahul (57 off 28 balls) and skipper Rohit Sharma (43 off 37 balls) was just as decisive.
Suryakumar and Kohli still had to capitalise on the solid beginning. And that they did. As you come to expect these days, Suryakumar drove the partnership forward with a flurry of boundaries as soon as he entered. He got going with two fours in his first four deliveries before going berserk in the 15th over of the innings by Kagiso Rabada. Having conceded 18 runs in his first two overs, the pace spearhead was perhaps feeling the heat. Suryakumar duly greeted Rabada with a flick over deep square leg for six. Next up was one of many full tosses from the South Africans, which Suryakumar dispatched through mid-off for four.
He ended the over with another four and six, shuffling across the stumps and sending the ball to the fine-leg region. With 22 coming off Rabada’s over, the South Africans simply couldn’t stem the flow of runs from thereon. The next two overs, by Lungi Ngidi and Wayne Parnell, yielded 16 and 23 runs respectively.
By the time a run-out ended Suryakumar’s innings, Kohli too had found his range. Aided by some sloppy bowling, he was successful in targetting the straighter boundaries.
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Rahul was equally impressive. He was prompt to get off the blocks, punching the first ball of the innings from Rabada for four past point. While he scored 51* in India’s eight-wicket victory in the first T20I in Thiruvananthapuram, he had consumed 56 balls after battling for fluency on an admittedly tricky surface.
The pitch in Guwahati though was clearly to his liking, allowing him to go for his shots with greater conviction. Barring an inside edge past his stumps for four through fine leg against Parnell, his attacking strokes had a touch of authority. Prominent among them were wristy flicks over the deep square leg boundary off Parnell and Anrich Nortje for maximum reward.
Rahul’s flick on the leg side is among his most productive shots, but he was equally punishing when any width was offered outside off-stump. Sharma played second fiddle as the hosts brought up the fifty mark in just 5.3 overs. India accelerated further following a 21-run ninth over by Nortje, both batters utilising the extra pace of the bowler to their advantage. When Nortje tried a slower ball, Rahul came up with a disdainful pull over deep midwicket for six.
At 94/0 in nine overs, India had the license to keep looking for boundary options. Sharma perished when he mistimed a slog sweep off left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj to Tristan Stubbs at deep midwicket. Rahul brought up his second successive half-century in the next over, charging down the track for a towering six over long-on against part-timer Aiden Markram. Although Rahul was out leg-before to Maharaj soon after, the stage was set for the Suryakumar show.