Pitch surprise as India down South Africa in T20 opener

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Fast bowler Arshdeep Singh rattled the opposition batting on a seaming pitch to set up India’s eight-wicket win over South Africa in their opening Twenty20 international on Wednesday.

South Africa recovered from 9-5 in 2.3 overs to post 106-8 after India elected to field first at the start of the three-match series in Thiruvananthapuram.

Arshdeep, a left-arm quick, returned figures of 3-32 and fellow pace bowler Deepak Chahar took two wickets on an unusually bowler-friendly track in India.

India lost skipper Rohit Sharma for a duck and star batsman Virat Kohli for three before the hosts achieved their target with 20 balls to spare and take a 1-0 lead.

KL Rahul (51) and Suryakumar Yadav (50) put on an unbeaten 93-run partnership to complete the chase as India move into their final two matches ahead of the T20 World Cup starting next month in Australia.

“We have played in a few difficult conditions like these but I haven’t got runs in those, so this was hard work,” Rahul said after hitting the winning six.

“Ice baths and wickets like these is not something we enjoy, but we have to do it sometimes.”

Rohit expressed surprised with the nature of the pitch and said, “We knew there will be something for the bowlers, but not through the 20 overs we bowled.”

New-ball bowlers Chahar and Arshdeep made it count after India lost pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah to “back pain” before the start of the match.

Number eight Keshav Maharaj hit 41 off 35 balls to help South Africa bat the full 20 overs and add some respectability to their meagre total.

Chahar bowled skipper Temba Bavuma for a fourth-ball duck and fellow opener Quinton de Kock dragged a delivery on to his stumps from left-arm quick Arshdeep.

The Proteas slipped further into trouble when Arshdeep had Rilee Rossouw caught behind for nought and then bowled David Miller the next ball.

It was South Africa’s worst-ever start to a T20 international when Tristan Stubbs fell to Chahar in the third over.

Aiden Markram (25) Wayne Parnell (24) put together 33 runs for the sixth wicket to slow India’s momentum.

Markram smashed three fours and one six before being trapped lbw by Harshal Patel as India successfully reviewed the on-field umpire’s initial decision.

Parnell fell in the 16th over but Maharaj stood firm before his knock ended in the final over as Patel picked up his second wicket.

“We didn’t expect that (pitch), we practiced here two days, ago,” said Bavuma.

“We saw the wicket was spicy, but we didn’t expect it like that. You expected to hit through the line coming to India.”

In reply, India struggled to 17-1 in the first six overs with Kagiso Rabada sending back Rohit and then the hosts lost Kohli, caught behind off fast bowler Anrich Nortje.

Suryakumar eased the nerves with two sixes including a lucky one with an edge that sailed over deep third man to bring the crowd alive.

The in-form Suryakumar hit five fours and three sixes in his 33-ball knock and took on the bowlers with Rahul, who stood anchor, for the company as the two set about the chase with clinical precision.

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