ROHIT SHARMA hit his 17th career ODI century to set India up for a 73-run victory in the fifth Momentum ODI at St. George’s Park on Tuesday and an historic 4-1 series victory with one match still to be played at SuperSport Park on Friday.
It was the first time India had won an ODI series in South Africa and was a particularly sweet one for Momentum Man of the Match Sharma (115 off 126 balls, 11 fours and 4 sixes) who had only managed to score 40 runs in his four previous knocks in the series.
It was a disappointing result for the Standard Bank Proteas who had been given an excellent chance of winning the match and staying alive in the series thanks to a superb effort by their bowlers who for the second match in a row produced an excellent death bowling performance in the final 10 overs, restricting India to 55 runs for the loss of 4 wickets.
The fightback started when Tabraiz Shamsi and Andile Phehlukwayo slowed India down between the 30th and 40th overs and then Lungi Ngidi produced a career best performance to take 4/51 from 9 overs. He claimed the key wicket of Sharma and then got rid of Hardik Pandya with his next delivery. MS Dhoni denied him the chance to become the fourth South African to take a hat trick but he had the last laugh when he dismissed the Indian veteran in his final over.
The target of 275 looked very gettable but once again the Proteas struggled to put partnerships together as they lost 3 wickets for 13 runs following an opening half-century stand between Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla.
It was always going to be an uphill battle after that although Amla (71 off 92 balls, 5 fours) and Heinrich Klaasen (39 off 42 balls, 2 fours and 2 sixes) batted them back into the game until the former was needlessly run out.
Thereafter the Indian spinners had little difficulty in wrapping up the tail with Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal taking five wickets between them at a cost of only 58 runs.
The one positive the Proteas can take out of the series to date is that their youngsters are growing up very quickly in the demanding arena of international cricket. Four of their five specialist bowlers went into this game with a collective total of 78 caps while Klaasen and Markram have also been making impressive strides in other areas.
There are certainly more players putting their hands up for possible World Cup selection than there were when the series started.