Durban:Morne Van Wyk defined irony on a lovely Durban night at the marvellous Moses Mabhida Stadium. On the day where he went unpicked by the IPL franchises, van Wyk hit a cultured 39-ball 67 to threaten to overhaul India's strong 168, but he fell in the 11th over to trigger a collapse and India closed in quickly. South Africa had deployed three spinners on a slow, low surface, but Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina propelled India to a match-winning total.
Van Wyk had the crowd in screaming in delight with his strokeplay: He looted 25 runs from six deliveries, spread over two overs, from Munaf Patel: There was a stunning pick-up shot over midwicket boundary, a pulled six and a cut boundary but the best shot was a scorching square drive to a ball that landed just short of the blockhole. And when he crashed R Ashwin for a four and a slog-swept six in the final over of the Powerplay, South Africa had reached 59 for 2.
It took an unlikely run out to switch the momentum India's way. Aashish Nehra relayed a throw from the deep to Suresh Raina, who fired a direct hit from midwicket to catch AB de Villiers short of his crease in the 10th over. JP Duminy fell in the next over, trapped by Yuvraj Singh, and things got worse for the hosts in 11th over, when van Wyk flicked Praveen Kumar straight to Nehra at deep square-leg. It was the beginning of the end, as no one barring Johan Botha, to an extent, could adapt to the slow track.
The football stadium hosted its first cricket international and Makhaya Ntini's last. It wasn't quite a perfect night for Ntini, but he had his moments to savour: He caught Rohit at the long-on boundary and faced the penultimate delivery of the game before he was cheered off by the Indians.
The slow pitch and the design of the stadium, with its short square-boundaries, dictated the style of play. The new ball and seamers leaked runs, the spinners pegged back the run-rate, and the batsmen heaved square to collect boundaries. India raced to 57 in six Powerplay overs, another 57 came in the next eight overs, bowled by the spinners, for the loss of three wickets before Suresh Raina pushed India ahead.
The openers, M Vijay and Virat Kohli, set the ball rolling with a few trademark hits: M Vijay unfurled a flamboyant lofted hit to long-on off Ntini and Kohli put his signature swat-flicks to great use, but it was Rohit who gave a solid foundation to the innings. He started with an edgy drive through the slips but almost immediately played a stylish pick-up shot for a six over midwicket off Ntini. He was dropped by de Villiers, the keeper, after being beaten in flight by Botha, and celebrated that reprieve by looting 16 runs in the 12th over, also bowled by Botha. He heaved a couple of boundaries to midwicket and hit a scorching inside-out cover drive. Rohit provided the crowd a moment to celebrate when he holed out to long-on, where Ntini caught the ball just inside the boundary to trigger huge cheers.
India slipped from 109 for 3 to 136 for 5 after Yuvraj Singh was run out and Yusuf Pathan edged an intended big hit on to his stumps but Raina ensured India reached a competitive score. He kept going for his slog-sweeps and swung Ntini and Rusty Theron for sixes and though the run-rate dipped a notch in the end overs, 168 was always going to be a strong total on this surface.