India wins ODI series in South Africa for 1st time
PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AP) India won a one-day series in South Africa for the first time, clinching a piece of history with a 73-run victory in the fifth game on Tuesday to lead 4-1 overall with one match left.
India's win was set up by 115 from opener Rohit Sharma - his first significant score of the tour - and sealed by wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, the standout bowlers in the series and constant thorns in the side of the South African batsmen.
India's first success in an ODI contest in South Africa also came with a game to spare. The tourists could stamp their dominance even further with a potential 5-1 win over the team that was ranked No. 1 at the start of the series.
India is now top-ranked in ODIs and there's no doubting that after this performance. India has won nine straight series, and last lost one in Australia in early 2016.
India's only failure in South Africa came in the fourth ODI, when South Africa took advantage in a rain-shortened game to pull one back and make it 3-1. That kept the home team alive, only for India to snuff out its hopes of drawing the series with a clinical win at St. George's Park.
"I think it was another complete performance from us and something we needed to do after the last game," India captain Virat Kohli said. "It feels wonderful to create some history. The guys have worked hard for it. Ever since that third test in Johannesburg, it's been a wonderful time for us here."
Following the disappointment of losing the first two tests of the tour and the series 2-1, India has bounced back to win five of the last six games between the teams in all formats.
That's more like the standard of performance expected of an India team that arrived in South Africa at the end of December with a big reputation under Kohli, arguably the best batsman in the world across all forms of the game.
In Port Elizabeth, it was Sharma's turn to lead India's batting. His century, with 11 fours and four sixes, took India to 274-7 after being asked to bat first by South Africa.
South Africa could only manage 201 all out in 42.2 overs in its chase, with Yadav taking 4-57 and Chahal 2-43.
Hashim Amla made 71 to keep South Africa hoping, but he was run out by a tiny margin with a direct hit from Hardik Pandya at mid-off in the 35th over and South Africa capitulated after that.
After Amla, South Africa went from 166-5 to 201 all out in the space of eight overs and those last five wickets all fell to the spin of Yadav or Chahal.
India's series win was built on two key areas.
The top three of Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli contributed four centuries, three half-centuries and nearly 900 runs between them in the five games. And Yadav and Chahal completely controlled proceedings with their slow bowling to share 30 wickets in five matches.
South Africa had won 17 straight ODIs at home before India swept to a 3-0 lead in this series, and ultimately its first series win in South Africa. India hasn't been regular visitors to South Africa for ODI series, but had waited since 1992 to win one here.
"This obviously hurts the guys a hell of a lot so we're going to look to bounce back and at least end the one-day series on a positive note," South Africa captain Aiden Markram said.
Updated February 13, 2018