Centurion: Skipper Virat Kohli broke a plethora of records en route his 35th century as India crushed South Africa by eight wickets to win the ODI series by a comprehensive 5-1 margin, here today.
Not only this was India's first ever series win on South African soil but also their biggest ever in terms of margin outside the sub-continent. Having kept their date with history by sealing the series in the previous encounter, India made short work of a paltry target of 205 by winning in only 32.1 overs with Kohli scoring an unbeaten 129 off 96 balls in another effortless chase. This was Indian captain's third hundred in the series.
Kohli was punishing mood as he personally anchored Proteas' biggest humiliation in a bilateral series at home in last 17 years. The last time South Africa lost 1-5 was back in 2001-02 season against a champion Australian side. The Indian skipper looked a like a batsman from a different planet as he toyed with a quality South African attack which looked defeated even before the start of the Indian innings. The bowlers' back drive off Chris Morris and a signature cover drive signalled Kohli's intent as he became the first ever batsman in the history of ODI cricket to score 500 runs in a bilateral series, eclipsing teammate Rohit Sharma's previous best of 491 runs.
Today, Kohli also became the fastest to 9500 ODI runs completing the feat in only 200 innings -- 17 less than AB de Villiers. Complacency is a word that's not there in Indian skipper's dictionary and he was ruthless in his approach. A straight drive off Imran Tahir got him to his 35th ODI ton in only 82 balls. His innings had 19 fours and two sixes. The celebrations were muted by his standards as he pointed at the name inscribed on the back of his jersey, which looked more like a statement of intent about who the 'Boss' was.
The defeat in the Test series was a rude jolt for him but the skipper was ready to lead from the front as it literally became a 'three-man show' for India.
While young wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal (16 wickets) and Kuldeep Yadav (17 wickets) created a web, Kohli added insult to the injury with his blazing blade in one of most one-sided away series that India have been a part of in the last two decades. Such has been Kohli's dominance in the series, that after his aggregate of 558 runs, the next best is Shikhar Dhawan (323), who is more than 200 runs behind his skipper. He led the side with complete authority and hardly put a foot wrong even during the dead rubber.
With the top two pace bowling slots going into the 2019 World Cup already grabbed by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, Mumbai's Shardul Thakur made a case for himself as the third block in the jigsaw puzzle with an impressive 4 for 52 during the South African innings. Spinners Yadav (1/51) and Chahal (2/38) again bowled well.
While batting, South African openers Aiden Markram (24) and Hashim Amla (10) made another sedate start. Thakur was impressive in his first spell, even though Markram took him for two boundaries to start off proceedings.
Jasprit Bumrah (2/24) kept a check on the scoring with his guile at the other end. The duo added 23 runs for the opening wicket before Amla was caught behind, pulling down leg side off a short ball from Thakur.
The pacer struck for a second time within the first power-play as a clever change of pace foxed Markram completely and he simply chipped a catch to Shreyas Iyer at cover, who caught well for a change. It brought AB de Villiers (30) and Khaya Zondo (54 runs) to the crease, and they rebuilt the innings with a 62-run partnership for the third wicket. They rotated the strike well and looked to be positive even against the spinners.
Zondo was even harsh on Chahal and smacked him for two sixes in an over. It was perhaps the liveliest session of batting from South Africa in this series, barring their late assault during the Pink ODI. De Villiers and Zondo brought up their 50-partnership off 52 balls as the Proteas crossed 100 in the 19th over. But not for once did they look convincing, a testimony to that was the final result of the series.