India 118 for 2 (Sudharsan 55*, Iyer 52) beat South Africa 116 (Arshdeep 5-37, Avesh 4-27) by 8 wickets
Both sides wanted to bat first because the match was being played on the same strip that hosted the final T20I between the same sides three days ago. On that night, India’s spinners enjoyed plenty of assistance, both sideways as well as up and down.
In a day match, though, South Africa turned out to be the unfortunate side to win the toss and have their death wish on a treacherous pitch with both seam and swing readily available to go with uneven bounce.
Still nursing the World Cup heartbreak, the losing finalists and the losing semi-finalists came into the match with their frontline fast bowlers resting and preparing for the Test series. South Africa retained their middle-order core, but India’s line-up looked completely raw. Captain KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav were the only ones who played the World Cup final.
Rahul was in action immediately as Mukesh appealed vehemently first ball. The inswinger seemed to have trapped Hendricks right in front but two sounds misled both umpire and Rahul. It was neither given out nor was the decision reviewed.
Mukesh continued to play around with both his edges in the rest of the over, a repeat of the third T20I three days ago when Hendricks couldn’t touch Mohammed Siraj for a whole first over. Arshdeep didn’t move the ball as much as Mukesh did. Hendricks saw a wide one and had a go, and ended up playing it on for an eight-ball duck. Arshdeep then bowled the perfect inswinger to trap Rassie van der Dussen in front for a golden duck.
Aiden Markram survived the hat-trick ball and went on to add 39 for the third wicket with Tony de Zorzi, who countered the movement by walking at the bowlers and then responded to the consequent short balls by punching and pulling them for two sixes. Visually he looked at odds with Markram, who struggled to come to terms with the uneven bounce from the pitch.
Eventually de Zorzi made a mistake on 28 off 21, pulling a ball not short enough, and the big top edge settled with Rahul. Arshdeep continued the damage with seam movement back in to Heinrich Klaasen, taking his leg bail with the last ball of the tenth over.
Usually in ODI cricket, even if the new ball does a lot, the movement seems to die down pretty quickly. Here, though, after an average swing of 1.4 degrees and average seam of 1.2 degrees in the first ten overs, the ball was still doing plenty for Avesh, the first-change bowler. At the start of the 11th, one nipped back in and had Markram playing on when looking for a regulation single to deep third. The next ball was a peach, seaming away like a legcutter, getting Wiaan Mulder lbw.
Arshdeep bowled two more overs, but couldn’t get the fifth wicket he was after. Avesh, though, kept striking. In his seven-ball stay, David Miller was given two sucker balls. He resisted the first one, but ended up edging the other. Keshav Maharaj soon chipped one to cover as it got big on him.
Mukesh went for a few in his second spell as Andile Phehlukwayo middled a few shots, which gave Arshdeep a second shot at the five-for. In his last over, Arshdeep, who had taken no wickets in his first three ODIs, picked up the fifth, trapping Phehlukwayo lbw on a slog.
Avesh got one more over to try to get his own five-for, but Tabraiz Shamsi enjoyed luck with a couple of slogs. Kuldeep Yadav then wrapped the innings up with a wrong’un.
Arshdeep said they were themselves caught by surprise at how much the ball did for the seamers, and once they realised that, it was all about bowling a disciplined line and length and letting the pitch do the rest.
The conditions weren’t quite as helpful by the time the second innings began at 1pm. It showed in how South Africa pulled their lengths back pretty early. They did manage to get the early wicket of Ruturaj Gaikwad, though.
The class was soon apparent, though, as he drove with ease, used his feet against spin, pulled down every chance he got and brought up his half-century off just 41 balls. Perhaps the on-drive against Tabraiz Shamsi’s turn, after having danced down the pitch, stood out.
Iyer, Sudharsan’s partner for 88 runs, contributed to the highlight reel with a lovely cover-drive on the up as Burger looked to tuck him up. He scored 52 off 45 and perished as he looked to end the game in a hurry. India still won with more than 33 overs to spare.
Sidharth Monga is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo