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Kohli's Plan B trumps de Kock's Plan Brawn


Quinton de Kock, with the bat in hand, hardly put a foot wrong on Wednesday. With the captain's hat on, however, he had a pretty rough initiation, and would perhaps have done well to take a page out of Virat Kohli's book. Not a member of this touring party but never too disconnected from cricket, Dale Steyn summed it up for him in a Tweet just as soon as India marched to a facile seven-wicket win in Mohali.

On a pitch where 149 was some way off from being a worthy total to challenge India's line-up, South Africa needed a well thought out bowling plan. Or at least the beginnings of one, to make a mark. But instead of making India work for their runs upfront, they served their hosts on a platter the perfect opportunity to lay the foundation for the chase.

Mohali, once a haven for fast bowlers on the Test circuit, has undergone its own T20fication - providing true bounce and truer pace for batsmen to hit through the line. Perhaps in a bid to stick to his team's strengths, de Kock packed four quicks in his line-up, and used them all in the PowerPlay, aiming to rattle and get past India's top-order with express pace. But, with pace served on a skiddy surface, all India had to do was find the gaps.

Rohit Sharma didn't get too many but did pull debutant Anrich Nortje for a couple of sixes to set the ball rolling for the hosts. Shikhar Dhawan laid into Kagiso Rabada at the other end and just like that India were off to a flyer. With 47/1 at the end of powerplay, nearly a third of the target was eaten into.

It wasn't until the eighth over that de Kock would introduce spin into the attack. And not until the 11th over did left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin come on. The Lions tweaker is in fact renowned for bowling in the PowerPlay, having done so through the CSA T20 Challenge earlier in the year culminating in a match-winning 4 for 27 in the final. But here, by the time he was into the attack, India had reached 79/1 at the halfway mark and had Kohli in 30s, well-set for a long haul.

It's a mistake India had made earlier in the evening but corrected ever so quickly. Kohli had perhaps brought on Navdeep Saini too early into the attack, in just the third over of the evening, and de Kock laid into him with a hat-trick of boundaries on the off-side. But that was that. Kohli instantly took the pace off the ball by bringing back Washington Sundar, who gave just one off his second over in the powerplay. South Africa's scorecard that read 30 without loss halfway into the fourth over, only progressed to 39/1 at the end of powerplay. The visitors didn't get a move on until Hardik Pandya, still rusty from the post-World Cup break, bowled a barrage of short and wide balls to let the third debutant, Temba Bavuma, settle in comfortably.

At 87 for 1 after the 11-over mark after being inserted in, South Africa had given themselves the perfect launch pad to explode in the second half. With wickets also in hand, 180 was comfortably in sights, as Bavuma would admit post match. Instead, India's 'inexperienced' bowling attack pulled things back phenomenally to ensure their batting wouldn't have a mountain to climb.

There weren't any freebies offered throughout the innings - neither no-balls, nor wides. The extensive use of cutters and slower ones meant South Africa's brittle middle-order was always kept on its toes. Saini returned to land a telling blow as he sent the dangerous de Kock packing with an offcutter. India mixed up pace and spin, making life difficult for Bavuma who choked on dot balls after his captain's departure and eventually fell to a slower one from Deepak Chahar in his last over. David Miller's wicket off another slower one, from Pandya, was the final nail in the coffin.     

South Africa had their window of opportunity when Phehlukwayo took out Rohit with a slower one, but failed to take cue from the dismissal to smash the door open. The bowlers erred in their length early on, allowing India to get away against a one-dimensional plan of attack. De Kock admitted, in hindsight, that a Plan B - pace off the ball - was the answer on this wicket and gave due credit to his opposite number for reading the conditions better. It's very early days for him on the captaincy hot seat and as Steyn said, 'in the middle' is the best place to learn. 

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