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  • Writer's pictureDahlia Foundation

Suryakumar Yadav's Hundred, Kuldeep's Fifer Fashion India's Series-Levelling Win Over South Africa

Captain Suryakumar Yadav produced a hundred of rare brilliance and Kuldeep Yadav worked his inimitable sorcery with a fifer as India registered a comprehensive 106-run series-levelling win over South Africa in the third and final T20I in Johannesburg on Thursday. Suryakumar's 100 off 56 balls that contained seven fours and eight sixes and Yashasvi Jaiswal's fluent 60 off 41 balls carried India to 201 for 7 after the visitors were asked to bat first. Indian bowlers, especially left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep (5/17), who turned 29 on Thursday, managed to hit better lengths to bundle out SA for 95 in 13.5 overs.

But for that India need to profusely thank Suryakumar. The 33-year-old exploited the opportunity to bat on a bone-dry surface making his fourth T20I century, joining team-mate Rohit Sharma and Australian Glenn Maxwell as batters with that many three-figure scores in the shortest format.

Suryakumar in the company of Jaiswal made 112 runs for an entertaining fourth-wicket alliance and trusted the true nature of the Wanderers' pitch to unfurl shots of the highest quality.

Their partnership also allowed India to wriggle out of a bit of a tight space after losing Shubman Gill (8) and Tilak Varma (0) off successive balls in the third over to left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj. India were 29 for 2 at that point.

But the Suryakumar-Jaiswal stand was not all about flaunting a gun. They made a rather sturdy beginning, adding 33 runs in the final four overs of the Power Play and then another 25 runs in the overs between seven and 10.

But once the 10th over mark passed, the pair, especially Suryakumar, shifted into overdrive as 114 runs came cascading in the back-10.

Suryakumar, who gave all the space to his junior partner in the early part of the partnership, soon took over the role of chief aggressor.

He took those '360' shots out of the shelf to punish the SA bowlers who did not have much variety to tame Suryakumar on a benign pitch.

Pacer Andile Phehlukwayo bore the brunt of Suryakumar's awesome skill sets in this format.

The Indian skipper hammered Phehlukwayo for 22 runs in the 13th over through a sequence of 6, 4, 6, 6, an over in which he also brought up his fifty along with that last maximum.

Jaiswal too had his own little moments like a magical pull off pacer Lizaad Williams that gave him six runs over mid-wicket.

But the left-hander's effort to clear long-off off left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi ended in the hands of Reeza Hendricks.

However, there was no stopping Suryakumar, who continued to cart the Proteas bowlers around using nimble feet and those highly-manipulative wrists.

The 33-year-old soon fetched a well-deserved hundred in a surprisingly sedate manner -- with a two off Williams -- off 55 balls.

He could not last till the end giving a catch to Matthew Breetzke at the edge of the ropes off Williams.

But by then, he had done enough to take India to a competitive total.

The Indians needed to come up with a better effort with the ball than they did in the second match, and they did precisely that.

The Johannesburg deck that changed the character drastically under the light too helped their cause. In the second half, the pitch offered some assistance to spinners in the form of turn, which Jadeja and Kuldeep used gleefully.

Birthday boy Kuldeep's delivery that came from outside of the off-stump to rattle the stumps of Dononvan Ferreira was quite exceptional, and also exposed SA batters' weakness against high-quality spin.

But in reality, South Africa's chase never really took off. Pacer Mohammed Siraj set the perfect platform for India's defence, bowling a maiden in the first over, and they never let the Proteas off the hook from that point.

Once captain Aiden Markram and big-hitting Heinrich Klaasen were dismissed inside the first seven overs to reduce SA to 42 for four, their fate was sealed.

The rest of the line-up did not have the ability to read Kuldeep either off the hand or off the pitch as they crumbled like a whole-meal cookie.

The only jarring point for India was the absence of Suryakumar who had to walk out of the field in the third over of SA innings with a hurt ankle while trying to stop a shot from Reeza Hendricks.

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