Despite being a batter light in the series opener, South Africa pulled off their most successful chase in T20I cricket, denying India a record 13th consecutive T20I victory. South Africa won with five balls to spare thanks to unbeaten half-centuries from David Miller and Rassie van der Dussen, who shared a 131-run fourth-wicket stand, a South African record. The innings was built on an impressive powerplay, led by a surprise promotion of Dwaine Pretorius to No. 3.
On a wicket described by India's highest scorer Ishan Kishan as "not easy," run-scoring was quicker than predicted, and boundaries were plentiful. South Africa hit 17 fours and 14 sixes, while India hit 16 fours and 14 sixes.
After posting their greatest total against South Africa - 211 for 4 - and the highest T20I total at Delhi's Arun Jaitley Stadium, India would have been confident in their chances. Against South Africa's two spinners, their batsmen were particularly brutal. Keshav Maharaj, who bowled first, and Tabraiz Shamsi combined to deliver five overs and give 70 runs, with Maharaj finishing with his most expensive T20I stats of 1 for 43.
In response, South Africa executed a flawless powerplay, scoring 61 runs in the first six overs. They lost captain Temba Bavuma and Pretorius, but Pretorius' cameo set up the middle order to finish the game. Despite a cautious start from van der Dussen, and a necessary run rate of over 14 per over at one point, Miller kept South Africa in the game throughout the first half of the partnership. At the conclusion, the two faced the Indian speed bowlers, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harshal Patel allowing 86 runs in their eight overs.
Kishan transforms a shaky start into a thrilling finish
Despite the runs on the board, India appeared to struggle as Kishan mishit three of his first four boundaries and played down the wrong line to practically everything else. Ruturaj Gaikwad, his opening partner, was also not hitting the ball cleanly. He top-edged Anrich Nortje over short fine-leg, but everything changed after India scored 36 runs in five overs and survived Wayne Parnell's first genuinely controlled over.
When Kishan dabbed Nortje behind third base and then smoked a drive through the covers to end the powerplay with India 51 and no outs, he displayed his talent. From there, he was unstoppable. Before successfully reviewing a lbw call, he slayed the short ball, proceeded down the track to hit Shamsi for six three times, and then blasted Maharaj through the leg-side for 20 runs off four balls.
South Africa made four mistakes, two of which proved costly. The first came right after the powerplay, when Gaikwad intercepted a hip-high short ball from Parnell and sent it to Pretorius at long leg. He struck it powerfully and straight at Pretorius, who was unable to hold it as the ball exploded through his hands for a six. Gaikwad was out on the very next ball.
Then, three balls past the midway point, Maharaj lowered his length when he saw Shreyas Iyer approaching the wicket, and Quinton de Kock had an opportunity to stump him, but he couldn't break the wicket in time. Iyer came in with a score of 25 and went on to score 36.
Kishan then top-edged a slog-sweep to midwicket, where Maharaj, van der Dussen, debutant Tristan Stubbs, and Shamsi all converged, but the ball landed between them. Kishan was on 52 when he went on to add another 24 points, the majority of which came off Maharaj. When Rishabh Pant attempted to sneak a run but collided with Rabada on the next ball, there was an opportunity to run him out for a duck at the non-end. striker's Stubbs lobbed the ball over the fielder on the opposite end of the field. Pant hammered a 16-ball 29 to win the game.
Pretorius was given a raise
When Bavuma was removed in the third over, South Africa surprised everyone by moving Pretorius to No. 3 instead of Miller or Stubbs, but a little investigation found that there was some logic to what appeared to be madness. In his T20 career, Pretorius has batted at No. 3 10 times and once in an international, scoring a career-best 77*. To demonstrate what he could do, he blasted the second ball he faced through the covers for four and slog-swept the fifth for six, then took three sixes from Hardik Pandya to confirm it. Pretorius swung hard and got the short, full, and length balls over the leg side before Harshal broke through his defenses with a four-run home run.
De Kock has been fired, and the pressure is mounting
With South Africa's required rate above 11 an over, de Kock holed out to Kishan at square leg off Axar Patel, and India tightened the squeeze. They bowled 18 boundary-less deliveries between Axar, Avesh Khan, and Harshal, pushing South Africa's required rate past 14 per over.
Van der Dussen makes a shift in gears
Given his outstanding IPL performance, it was assumed that Miller would be the hitter to keep South Africa in the game, and he delivered. He blasted Axar for a six into the third tier of the stands after breaking the boundary drought with 10 runs off the last two balls of Harshal's second over.
However, van der Dussen, who has been chastised for his poor scoring rate, was unable to consistently get the ball away until he shattered the toe-end of his bat and had to replace it. He smashed Avesh over his head for four from a no-ball, then sent him straight to deep midwicket, but Shreyas dropped a routine chance. Van der Dussen was on 29 off 30 balls at the time and went on to score 22 runs off Harshal's third over, including sending two full-tosses for six and brought up fifty with a six over deep square leg off the 39th ball he faced. He reduced the required run rate to 34 in the final three overs, and then to 12 in the final over.