Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx
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India 237 for 3 (Suryakumar 61, Rahul 57, Kohli 49*, Maharaj 2-23) beat South Africa 221 for 3 (Miller 106*, de Kock 69*, Arshdeep 2-62) by 16 runs
If the first T20I in Thiruvananthapuram was a tantalising contest between bat and ball, the second T20I in Guwahati turned out to be the polar opposite. India posted 237 against an ordinary bowling performance from the visitors, but in response, the hosts, too, had an indifferent outing with the ball and conceded 221. The difference between the two sides ended up being the solid opening partnership that India had, one which South Africa failed to reproduce for the second game in a row.
Each of India's top five - in different capacities - posted confidence-boosting scores en route to their fourth-highest T20I total of all time. Suryakumar Yadav in his 22-ball 61 showed yet again why he's the most exciting T20I batter presently. Virat Kohli, in his unbeaten 49, showed how to balance aggression with accumulation. Rohit Sharma overcame a potential injury to his finger to make a solid 43. Dinesh Karthik, in his cameo of 17 at a strike rate of 243, confirmed the notion that very few finish innings like him. And lastly, KL Rahul reminded everyone in his 28-ball 57 that he can bat at a 200+ strike rate when he wants to.
With two of South Africa's top three falling for ducks early on, defeat was looming for South Africa early in the chase. That somewhat freed up the in-form David Miller to post his highest T20I score of an unbeaten 106 with not much to lose. He nearly dragged South Africa over the line, dominating an unbeaten partnership of 174 with Quinton de Kock. However, in the end, India's bowlers had too many runs to play with.
On paper, India's win gave them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, but both sides would be unhappy with specific portions of their game. India's inexperienced bowling attack was torn apart after a promising start while South Africa would be worried by their seam-bowling performance and the form of their top order.
Rahul leads openers' charge
The match started with a first-ball boundary, Rahul riding Kagiso Rabada's bouncy wide ball to cut for four. He then survived a chop-on onto his stumps off Wayne Parnell, but made the most of the slice of luck to race to 25 in 11 deliveries. Rohit utilised Rahul's brisk start to get back to his own rhythm after a blow to his finger while trying to scoop Parnell slowed him down.
At the end of six overs, India were 57 for no loss. And with both openers set on a surface where they could trust the bounce, they attacked relentlessly till the end of their partnership. Rahul was imperious in his flicks off his toes - that flew over square leg - and the square cut. Rohit's timing was on point, especially after his indifferent start, while meeting the ball for the drive through cover or getting down for the sweep. However, Rohit perished seven short of his fifty, trying to drag Keshav Maharaj for a slog sweep from outside off.
Seeing Maharaj's success compared to the seamers, Temba Bavuma went to Aiden Markram's offspin next over, but Rahul pounced on the part-timer's over to get to his fifty in 24 balls with a six. Even though Maharaj had Rahul lbw next over, the 12th, India were going at a run-rate of a shade under 10, and that meant he had done his bit in their pursuit for 200+.
Carnage in the last eight Both Kohli and Suryakumar were fresh at the crease, and South Africa had the opportunity to bring the scoring rate down. However, Maharaj was done with his overs. And off the next eight overs of pace bowling, the two batters - and briefly Karthik - pummelled 124. A mix of dewy conditions and bowlers missing their yorkers offered Kohi and Suryakumar plenty of full tosses, and they did not let them go to waste. Parnell, Rabada and Ngidi all finished poorly in their final spells.
One of those full tosses from Parnell brought Suryakumar's half-century in 18 balls, an innings that was peppered with sweeps, flicks and flat-batted thumps to the leg side with some occasional cuts to keep the offside busy. He even crunched Rabada for 21 runs in a 22-run over that deflated the quick bowler. Kohli, too, peppered the leg side with his whippy flicks through midwicket or charges down the ground.
By the end of the 18th over, the duo had posted a partnership of 102 in only 42 deliveries, but Suryakumar was run-out after his 22-ball 61 when he ran for a single with Kohli not looking at him, forcing a mix-up that he could not recover from. At that stage, India were 209 for 2, and once more, South Africa had the chance to take some momentum with them at the break with a tidy finish. However, Kohli hammered Anrich Nortje for back-to-back fours and then Karthik, in his seven-ball 17, played with Rabada's plans by moving across to the off side early and then dragging wide deliveries over the leg side in an 18-run final over. Kohli was left unbeaten on 49, starved for strike in the final over with Karthik finding the boundaries and India finishing on 237 for 3.
Miller makes it a contest
For the second game in a row, both Temba Bavuma and Rilee Rossouw were out for ducks, with Arshdeep Singh yet again taking two wickets in his first over. It was possibly the worst start South Africa could have in a chase of 238 and when play was briefly stopped due to a floodlight malfunction, the rest of the match - at that stage - appeared to be a mere formality.
The asking rate was almost 14 when Aiden Markram was out in the seventh over to Axar Patel, and when Miller walked in alongside de Kock, he did not seem to take the pressure of the looming target in front of him. With one eye on the T20 World Cup, de Kock and Miller looked to bat as long as possible even if the match result appeared to be beyond them.
However, the longer they stayed, the more South Africa would feel they were hard done by their poor start. Pressure off, Miller smacked full balls in his arc in the 'V' consistently while short deliveries were pulled, often all the way for six. In all, he clubbed eight fours and seven sixes to reach his first fifty in 25 balls and his next fifty runs came in 21 balls. The bigger his partnership with de Kock grew, the more India's seamers erred, with Arshdeep bowling no-balls (thrice) and the subsequent free-hits going for sixes twice. Harshal Patel conceded 45, Axar got hit for four sixes in his spell of 53 and Arshdeep had 62 runs to his name.
De Kock, who had to play cautiously with the two early wickets, was slow off the blocks and seemed to be stuck there for most of his innings. Even when Miller looked fluent, his timing was off, often playing too hard at deliveries. Deepak Chahar - the pick of the India bowlers with 0 for 24 - kept him quiet, and once he realised that Miller could cause more damage, he went to play second fiddle.
He stayed unbeaten on 69 in 48 balls, a useful innings to break his run of poor scores, but had his strokeplay been as smooth as Miller's, perhaps South Africa could've even won the game despite their horrid start. De Kock even acknowledged the same at the end of the game, saying "well played, I'm sorry" - as revealed by Miller post-match - to his batting partner.
Over 20 • SA 221/3India won by 16 runs
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Maharaj hits the perfect awkward length to give India's batters a working over
In a game where 458 runs were scored off 40 overs, for just six wickets, the South Africa spinner's figures read 4-0-23-2
Suryakumar had 'a bigger impact on the game', says Player-of-the-Match Rahul
"We were in our minds saying 180-185 would be a really good target, but the game always surprises you"
Pieces shuffle into place in India's batting jigsaw
Kohli's sideways shuffle a sign of India's batters buying into their new approach
Snake and floodlight failure stop play in Guwahati
After the unwelcome visitor in the first innings, one floodlight tower went off during the chase