South Africa 149 for 6 (Klaasen 81, Bavuma 35, Bhuvneshwar 4-13) beat India 148 for 6 (Shreyas 40, Karthik 30*, Nortje 2-36) by six wickets
Heinrich Klaasen, who was brought into the South African XI as an injury replacement for Quinton de Kock, anchored South Africa's chase of 149, with a career-best 81, to give them a 2-0 lead in the five-match series. On a pitch that was challenging to most batters, Klaasen batted as though it was a different surface. He took on the Indian spinners and turned what started as a tough chase into a doddle at the end.
South Africa were in early trouble thanks to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who found swing and took three wickets in the Powerplay to leave them struggling on 29 for 3 - their second-lowest powerplay score against India. In the process, Bhuvneshwar became India's third-highest T20I wicket-taker, four behind Jasprit Bumrah and six adrift of Yuzvendra Chahal. He returned to bowl a fourth over, and claim a fourth wicket, but with the result all but sealed in South Africa's favour.
South Africa's fourth-wicket pair of Temba Bavuma and Klaasen took the chase by the scruff of the neck and scored 64 runs in 41 balls between them. Klaasen was the more attacking of the two and continued in that vein when Bavuma was dismissed, eclipsing David Miller at the end.
None of India's batters could push on in that fashion. Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer made 34 and 40 respectively but India's middle order was squeezed by a disciplined and crafty South African attack. Bavuma used all four seam options for their full quota of overs, with the spinners only bowing two overs each. The quicks relied on taking their pace off, like Wayne Parnell and Dwaine Pretorius, or firing in short balls with extra gas, like Anrich Nortje.
It was not until Dinesh Karthik and Harshal Patel came together for the seventh wicket that India applied some pressure on South Africa's attack. They put on 36 runs in three overs to push India's total over 140 but not beyond it being their third lowest in T20Is against South Africa at home.
Spin strategy on show
After using left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj to open the bowling in Delhi, Bavuma held back the slower bowlers until the ninth over in Cuttack. Tabraiz Shamsi started well but Shreyas Iyer took him on in the last two balls of his opening over, which went for 10, before Rishabh Pant tried to do the same against Maharaj.
Pant stepped down the track to Maharaj's first ball, which he delivered wide of offstump (so wide it would have been called such if Pant didn't hit it), and gave himself space to carve it over point. But Pant had given himself too much room and ended up slicing the ball to Rassie van der Dussen on the deep-point boundary.
Welcome back, DK
Karthik had waited almost 1200 days since he last played a T20I on February 27, 2019 to represent India again, on June 6, 2022 but he only faced two balls for one run and Hardik Pandya refused the opportunity to give him more of the strike. He had more time today when he came in to bat in the 14th over but his finishing skills were kept quiet with nine runs from the first 16 balls he faced.
India had eight deliveries left in their innings when Karthik decided he couldn't hang around anymore. He pulled a short ball from Nortje, unconvincingly, to fine leg for four and then got the chance to face an extra delivery when Nortje bowled a wide. Nortje sent down a legcutter and Karthik opened the face of the bat to steer it wide of short third man for four more. In the final over, he pushed India towards 150 with successive sixes off Pretorius to finish on 30 not out off 21 balls.
Bhuvneshwar gets the early breakthroughs
In high humidity, the pre-match talk was all about swing but it was not until Bhuvneshwar got the ball in his hands that we saw it move considerably. He got shape away from the right-hander straightaway and then surprised Reeza Hendricks with a massive inswinger that cut him in half. Before Hendricks had time to figure out whether he would approach the inswinger on the front or back foot, Bhuvneshwar bowled him with one that nipped in and took out offstump.
In his next over, Bhuvneshwar tried the short ball against pinch-hitter Dwaine Pretorius and then tossed in the knuckle ball. Pretorius swung across the line and miscued it to backward square leg where Avesh Khan took the catch. South Africa were reduced to 13 for 2 in three overs. Bhuvneshwar was brought back, from the other end to bowl the last over in the powerplay. He set Rassie van der Dussen up with two balls that straightened and a third that nipped in, kept low, beat his drive and found offstump.
All hail, Heinrich
Klaasen was brought into the XI as the wicket-keeping replacement for de Kock but proved himself as a worthy batting substitute too. With South Africa on 29 for 3 in the powerplay and the required run rate already above 8.5 an over, Klaasen took on the aggressor role, and targeted India's spinners. He took on Chahal and Axar Patel and was not afraid to make room for himself and swing hard.
Klaasen scored 26 of the 32 runs that South Africa clocked up in the 11th and 12th overs, which took the required rate down to 7.5 an over and broke the back of the chase. But he wasn't done there and was responsible for 15 of the 23 runs scored in Chahal's final over, including two massive sixes, over long-on and deep square-leg that went swirling into the 45,000-strong crowd.