Shikhar Dhawan made a 39-ball 72, as India won the first T20I by 28 runs. © BCCI

Shikhar Dhawan made a 39-ball 72, as India won the first T20I by 28 runs. © BCCI

India extended their dominance from the One-Day International series into the first of three Twenty20 Internationals, subjecting South Africa side to a 28-run defeat at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Sunday (February 18).

After Shikhar Dhawan’s 72 helped India rake up 203 for 5 on being put in, Bhuvneshwar Kumar picked up his maiden T20I five-wicket haul to leave the hosts well short at 175 for 9, despite Reeza Hendricks’s gritty 70.

South Africa didn’t have the best start, losing JJ Smuts and JP Duminy early. Smuts began promisingly, striking boundaries off Bhuvneshwar and Jaydev Unadkat in the first two overs. Bhuvneshwar came back well in his second over, bowling a knuckle ball to fox Smuts for a nine-ball 14.

Duminy, the catpain, looked tentative and tied down in his short stay before flicking another Bhuvneshwar slower ball to deep midwicket, where Suresh Raina took a fine catch running back to reduce South Africa to 38 for 2.

David Miller top-edged a short ball from Hardik Pandya to deep backward square-leg, where Jasprit Bumrah leaped to fling the ball back into field, but his feet were on the ropes when he leapt even before he was yet to touch the ball, resulting in a six for Miller. But a couple of balls later, Miller hoicked a slower ball to Dhawan at a deepish mid-on.

The Indian bowlers operated a lot more smartly than their South African counterparts. The seamers mixed up their pace and length adroitly, while the South Africans had become predictable with far too many short balls without attempting to keep batsmen thinking with slower deliveries. Their efforts managed to keep the home side to just 79 for 3 in 10 overs, leaving them with the unenviable task of trying to get 125 runs in the remaining 10.

Hendricks, the opener, was composed throughout his innings. Farhaan Behardien provided him with great support at the other end scoring a 27-ball 39 in an 81-run stand for the fourth wicket. Despite that, the asking rate kept climbing. When Yuzvendra Chahal had Behardien caught at long-on with the last ball of his spell, the asking rate was nudging 15.

But Hendricks had gone past fifty and was pulling the big shots a lot more frequently. MS Dhoni, doing captaincy duties with Virat Kohli off the field since after the 13th over, brought back Bhuvneshwar in the 18th over, and the seamer dismissed Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen (16 off 8) and Chris Morris to completely shut South Africa’s chances.

The official word from the Indian camp was that Kohli had left the field on account of a niggle in the left hip and was being treated by the physio, and that there was no cause for alarm.

In the afternoon, on being put in, India’s ploy was to take full toll of the Power Play overs on a batting-friendly surface. They skillfully harnessed the pace offered by Dane Paterson, Junior Dala and Morris to score 78 runs in the first six overs, despite losing two wickets to Dala, the debutant.

Rohit Sharma dispatched two short balls for sixes in the very first over from Paterson. Dala persisted with the short length in the following over and found a faint nick to the wicketkeeper when Rohit tried to upper cut, falling for a nine-ball 21.

Raina, returning to the squad after more than a year, looked in good form, pulling a short ball from Paterson for six. He hit a couple more fours in his short stay, but became Dala’s second wicket when he skied a catch back to the bowler for 15 from seven balls.

Dhawan enjoyed some luck early on, when he feathered an edge off Dala to Heinrich Klaasen down leg, but the South Africans did not appeal and the ball was called wide. The left-hand opener shook that off and went on to play power-packed shots all across the ground.

The whole of South Africa might have been on their feet when the on-song Kohli mishit a slog off Tabraiz Shamsi straight down Behardien’s throat at long-on, only for the fielder to put down an absolute sitter. So easy was the catch that Kohli didn’t even run. Kohli added insult to South Africa’s injury by hitting a four and a six in that same over. Shamsi, however, had him trapped in front in his next over to end Kohli’s innings for a 20-ball 26.

Dhawan then dominated a 47-run stand with Manish Pandey for the fourth wicket before falling to an Andile Phehlukwayo slower ball for a brilliant 39-ball 72, having powered India to 155 for 4 in under 15 overs.

But his wicket helped South Africa rein things in just a tad. Pandey (29 not out off 27) never really managed to tee off as well as he would have liked to. Dhoni did well to hit two boundaries in his 11-ball 16 before falling to a Morris yorker. Pandya smashed 13 from 7 balls to help India over the 200-run mark. South Africa contributed to India’s cause with as many as nine wide balls, and while it wasn’t the difference in the end, it only served to push the task well beyond them.