x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

India take ODI series lead in South Africa

Yusuf Pathan scores 59 from 50 balls to help the tourists chase down 220 set by South Africa with two wickets to spare in the third one-day international.

CAPE TOWN // Yusuf Pathan hammered 59 from 50 balls and Harbhajan Singh hit 23 not out at the end as India edged South Africa by two wickets in the third one-day international at Newlands.

Pathan powered to his half-century from just 41 balls, and eventually hit three sixes and six fours, to secure India's victory and a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.

Harbhajan guided the tail home with 10 balls to spare, after Pathan had fallen with India 39 runs short, as the tourists reached 223-8 to overhaul South Africa's 220 all out.

A revived India have now come from behind to take charge of the series after losing the first match by 135 runs.

Pathan was out to a fine catch by Morne Morkel running backwards at third man to leave India 182 for seven, but Harbhajan hit two sixes and controlled partnerships of 26 with Zaheer Khan and 15 with Ashish Nehra to see India home.

Morkel was South Africa's best bowler with three for 28.

The series concludes with matches in Port Elizabeth on Friday and Centurion on Sunday, with India needing to win just one of the two remaining games for their first-ever one-day series win in South Africa.

Khan had led India's bowlers with three for 43 as South Africa was earlier bowled out in 48.2 overs, despite Faf du Plessis' 60 on his international debut. JP Duminy made 52.

Harbhajan supported with two for 23 and Munaf Patel returned figures of two for 42 as India produced an impressive performance in the field to limit South Africa, who had chosen to bat first.

Pathan then rescued India from real trouble at 93 for five in their chase chase with a 75-run partnership with Suresh Raina, who made 37.

"I think it was a very good effort by some of our batsmen, especially the lower middle order," the India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said. "We want Yusuf to play his natural game and once he gets more runs and more games he will turn into a match-finishing batsman."

Pathan moved into attacking mode with three sixes off the spinner Johan Botha in the 30th over and eventually reached a third one-day half-century in his first match in South Africa.

He also cut and drive fours to the boundary on the offside in his counter-attacking innings after India had struggled early on in their chase.

Morkel and pace partner Dale Steyn removed India's top three batters and spinners Duminy and Johan Botha chipped in with a wicket each as India crashed from 56 for one to 93 for five before Pathan and Raina turned the match around.

"It was a good win for us," Pathan said. "I was just looking for the ball in the right area and if it was in my area I had to go for it."

In another tense finish following a one-run victory for India in the second game in Johannesburg, South Africa removed Pathan and then Khan for 14 to leave India 208 for eight and 13 runs short with just two wickets in hand.

But Harbhajan launched a six, his second, over extra cover off Morkel to relieve the pressure and Nehra lofted a drive down to long-on for the winning boundary — and a second successive victory for the visiting team.

Saturday's dramatic comeback win at the Wanderers was India's first ODI win in South Africa in 10 years.

"I think we were up to the mark in this game," Dhoni said. "Harbhajan is a kind of allrounder for us ... it is always good to have him.

"There are still areas where we need to improve with the fast bowlers and with the World Cup coming we can't afford to give away anything extra."

Du Plessis was rewarded with his debut half-century with a place in the Proteas' World Cup squad, but the home batsmen failed again as South Africa slipped to successive losses on home soil.

Captain Graeme Smith made 43, but South Africa lost its last six wickets for just 20 runs after Du Plessis fell to a sharp catch by Virat Kohli.

"Obviously very, very disappointed," said Smith. "I thought we were 20 runs short. I think 240 would have been a good total on that surface and even though we bowled and fielded pretty well we missed one or two key chances at the back end.

"But, credit to Yusuf Pathan. I think his knock was probably the difference in the end."