Sanju Samson, Shreyas Iyer display India’s batting riches in 1st ODI against South Africa at Lucknow 

Sanju Samson nearly delivered a win for India in the first ODI at Lucknow

In the absence of several big names of Indian cricket who have already reached Australia to prepare for the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup 2022, the onus is on the squad full of young and promising players — those who definitely deserve to play international cricket on a regular basis — to keep the team’s history of being an unbeatable, dominant force at home. 

And mind you, it is not just about carrying the responsibility but it is also about making most of the limited chances one gets to play international cricket for India, after toiling for years at a stretch. Ask Sanju Samson. Ask Shreyas Iyer. Even, ask Shikhar Dhawan. 

All these men and a few others nearly took India past the finish line on Thursday night at the Ekana Stadium in Lucknow. After rains washed out 20 overs of play from the allotted 100 overs, the two teams took the field in what looked like a surprisingly empty cricket stadium during a cricket match in India. 

Nevertheless, there was no dearth of entertainment as the best cricketers from South Africa took on the second-best ODI side from India, and emerged victorious by a narrow margin of 9 runs. 

The margin could have been a lot higher given how several Indian players played — they just had off-days — but courtesy some brave knocks from Sanju Samson, Shreyas Iyer and a few others, India nearly notched up a win. 

India captain Shikhar Dhawan invited South Africa to bat after winning the toss. The Indian bowlers failed to find a breakthrough until the 13th over, when Janneman Malan was dismissed by Shardul Thakur. Quinton de Kock nearly scored his third fifty on the trot this tour, but Ravi Bishnoi denied him by just a couple of runs. The left-handed wicketkeeper-batsman hit 5 fours in his 54-ball 48. 

Temba Bavuma’s horror continued, he was dismissed for 8. Aiden Markram failed to open his account as Kuldeep Yadav cleaned him up on the fifth delivery the batsman faced. 

David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen got together and smacked fifties.  The left-handed David Miller scored 74 not out from 65 balls with 6 fours and 2 sixes. The right-handed Heinrich Klaasen hit 3 sixes and 5 fours to make 75 not out from 63 balls. Their almost-identical knocks brought about a splendid 139-run unbeaten stand for the 5th wicket.

South Africa finished at a formidable 249/4. The score might have looked chaseable but not an easy one against this South Africa bowling attack. Kagiso Rabada rattled Shubman Gill’s stumps. Wayne Parnell had Shikhar Dhawan chopping one on to his wickets. 

India struggled to put the bat on the ball for the majority of the first 10 overs. 

India debutant Ruturaj Gaikwad made a forgettable 42-ball 19 in his maiden outing. Ishan Kishan failed to deliver at No 4, falling for 20 off 37 balls. 

It was a painful period of cricket by the Indian batters until Shreyas Iyer and Sanju Samson got together. Their 67-run stand for the fifth wicket took India back into the contest, which was followed by a brilliant 93-run partnership between Sanju Samson and Shardul Thakur that nearly took India past the finishing mark. 

Shreyas Iyer looked terrific in his 37-ball 50 studded with 8 fours. Shardul Thakur made a valuable 33 from 31 balls. 

But towards the end, when Sanju Samson was on fire and could have won India the game, the others disappointed. Avesh Khan and the others in the tail could not get the in-form batsman on the strike for most of the last 2 overs, and South Africa cherished collecting some desperately-needed ODI World Championship points and a narrow win. 

Sanju Samson’s 86 not out off 63 balls was his only second ODI fifty — first in India — which once again displayed India’s batting riches and why they will be firm favourites in the next 50-over World Cup in 2023 which they will host.