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Match Analysis

India's wristspinners announce themselves in the land of the wrong'un

Marrying magic with temperament, control with flair, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav stemmed a free-flowing South African innings, and sounded out a warning to teams around the world

South Africa is the land where Reggie Schwarz, the Englishman and Bernard Bosanquet's former Middlesex team-mate, brought the wrong'un in the early 1900s. This is where he shared the art with Albert Vogler, Gordon White and Aubrey Faulkner. On the matting pitches, the art of wristspin thrived in the 1900s. In 1905, they demolished the touring Englishmen, and then again on the return tour of England the same year. Even as the turf pitches have made the country unfriendly for spinners, visiting and home wristspinners have found something here: Shane Warne, Clarrie Grimmett and Faulkner have impressive averages.
Yet, it is unlikely that any visiting team has outdone the powerful South African sides with two wristspinners in limited-overs cricket. Understandably, there was a little bit of trepidation around Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav coming into this series, not least because of the pitches. Their captain, a belated wristspin convert after the Champions Trophy debacle for the world's No. 1 and No. 2 Test spinners, was confident they would stand up to the test.
The scene was set up early enough. Kohli went to Chahal at the first opportunity he got. South Africa had made a good start, the score was 49 for 1, the Powerplay had just ended, and on came Chahal. The confidence was there; it showed in the slip for the outside edge. Bowling in this country for the first time, Chahal immediately settled into his groove.
In his first over, Quinton de Kock got a couple, but he had to do so with a paddle sweep from outside off. Even as pace was punished at the other end, Chahal nearly had Faf du Plessis lbw in his second over, except that the appeal was not vociferous, and the not-out call was not challenged.
Kohli goes to Chahal sooner than Kuldeep because he is considered to have the slightly stronger temperament and control. Between the two wristspinners, he is less the magician. Chahal brought what the captain wanted. Despite the little bit of turn, Kohli would have wanted his legspinner to provide little room to the batsmen, and bring the stumps into play. That's how Chahal got de Kock, although the projection on replay confounded everybody - bowler, batsman, umpire - by showing that the ball was missing the leg stump slightly.
If Chahal was all control, Kuldeep immediately showed his flair. In his first over in South Africa, he nearly did in South Africa's Test opener twice with a wrong'un. In the land where the wrong'un was perfected, Kuldeep was adding another chapter: taking it away from the right-handed batsmen. Paul Adams would have approved.
JP Duminy, not the most comfortable against spin at the best of times, got the delivery of the match. Never mind that he didn't pick the wrong'un; Duminy was first beaten in the flight. He thought he could go forward to this generously looped ball, but then he saw it dip and panicked. The front foot got stuck where it was: half forward. The weight went back. It was too late to react off the pitch as the ball fizzed through to hit his stumps.
The other wickets were a result of the pressure they created rather than those deliveries themselves, but India's wristspinners had announced themselves in the land of the wrong'un. They bowled 20 overs between them for 79 runs and five main wickets. They paralysed a free-flowing South African innings. They did it joyfully, one man in total control of the inches he spins the ball; the other a maverick, throwing it up, giving it as many revs as he can, letting it show its magic. Even a full toss dipped under the sweep and bowled Chris Morris.
This should put other teams on notice. India might have been behind the world going into the Champions Trophy - perhaps wary of handing out debuts in the big world event - but their two wristspinners have come to international cricket as finished articles. Now they are showing that they can be effective outside the slower Indian pitches too. Partnering Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, whom Steven Smith recently rated as the best death bowlers in the world, these two are not far - if at all - from being the best ODI attack in the world. How teams must be wishing there were no middle overs.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo