Ind vs SA 1st T20 – Rassie van der Dussen

“To be honest, I thought 150 would have been a really good total.”

That was Ishan Kishan speaking to presenter Star Sports after helping India to place 211 for 4 against South Africa in the first T20I in Delhi. The reason behind Kishan’s rating was not only that the new ball came off the seam, but it also didn’t land well on the bat. Even if Kishan was a little off, India’s total should have been a winning total. And it looked like this when South Africa was 86 for 3 after ten overs in their chase.

At that point, Rassie van der Dussen hit 15 out of 16. David Miller had just joined him and was at 4 out of five. South Africa needed 126 more runs – no team had scored that many in the last ten overs of a T20I to win the match. But van der Dussen and Miller did not panic.

“When David came in,” Van der Dussen revealed after the game, “I said to him, ‘You can play it the way you see it, but I’m pretty happy to take over between 12 and 13 in the last ten. ‘ Because if you were in this wicket, you could really capitalize. So we didn’t panic at all. We knew that even if the demand rate went up to 14-15, we could use that one short limit with the right-left combination We knew we could target the bowlers.”

That’s exactly what they did. Miller, arguably in the shape of his life, skipped Harshal Patel for a four and six of consecutive deliveries in the 12th. In the next over, he did one better against Axar Patel with 4, 6 and 6.

The Indian sailors had watched the first innings closely and planned their plans accordingly, especially on how to use the slower ball. Bhuvneshwar Kumar had sent Temba Bavuma away with one at the start of the innings, while giving up only seven from two overs.

He tried the same tactic again when he returned in the 15th over. But by now the field had calmed down and Miller sent his slower back-to-back balls for four and six. He ran away into his half-century at just 22 balls, meaning South Africa was still very much in the game, despite Van der Dussen crawling along with 29 from 30 balls.

“I think I put a little bit of pressure on myself and the team by not being able to set boundaries at the beginning of my turns,” said Van der Dussen. “But it wasn’t for lack of intention, or lack of planning, or lack of clarity of mind. You know, sometimes it just doesn’t come out.”

van der Dussen struggled to time the ball. When he got the timing right, he slammed it straight at the outfield players. Then came luck that enabled him to turn a potentially game-losing innings into a game-winning inning. Needing 63 from 29 balls, he hit Avesh Khan towards deep midwicket where Shreyas Iyer made a regulatory catch.

“When Shreyas dropped it, I knew I had to make them pay because I took the balls to get myself in,” said Van der Dussen.

And he made India pay by crushing 45 of the next 15 balls.

With 56 required from four overs, he aimed for the shorter leg side limit against Harshal, who has been the death-overs specialist for Royal Challengers Bangalore for the last two IPL seasons. But it just wasn’t Harshal’s day. Bowling around the wicket, he missed his target twice and van der Dussen duly sent the two full throws over long-on and deep back square leg.

“I watched him a lot in the IPL, he was brilliant,” said Van der Dussen. “He has such a good slower ball. So after I got those first two sixes out, I knew he had to go to his slower balls. But you have to perform anyway. It’s a very difficult ball to hit, because he has a lot of from dive on it. But then again, he’s only human and you know he’ll probably miss at some point.”

After the first two balls, Harshal switched to the wicket and tried to hide the ball outside. But van der Dussen shuffled across and found another four and a six to tip the game in South Africa’s favour.

“I suppose the other lesson [during the chase] wash if you skip a six or two in one, don’t let the man get away. Keep him under pressure, keep looking for those options because an over 20 – I think Harshal went for 22 – goes a long way to get it back under control.”

The Harshal over brought the equation down to 34 needed from 18 balls. India’s last hope was Bhuvneshwar, but with both Van der Dussen and Miller doing well, he too could do little. Miller led off the over with a six and van der Dussen finished it with 6, 4, 4. As a result, what seemed an insurmountable goal at the end of the first innings was achieved with five balls left.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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