Young and dynamic India speedster Shardul Thakur made a thumping appearance in an ODI match after a leap of five months, with a change in his jersey No -- from 10 to 54, and claimed a four-wicket haul as India folded South Africa for a below-par 204 in the sixth and final ODI at Supersport Park, Centurion, on Friday.
Earlier in September, the 26-year-old had received much criticism for donning the celebrated jersey No 10 on his international debut. India's 'god of cricket' Sachin Tendulkar wore the No 10 jersey for a major span of his illustrious career. Fans didn't like Shardul donning the same No and slammed his a big time on social media.
Following the criticism, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) decided to retire the No 10 jersey in honour of batting legend Sachin.
On Friday, Thakur (4/52), playing in place of rested Bhuvneshwar Kumar, picked his best figures in ODI cricket in this third match.
Spinners Kuldeep Yadav (1/51) and Yuzvendra Chahal (2/38) finished with 33 wickets together in this six-match series.
Aiden Markram (24) and Hashim Amla (10) made another sedate start. Thakur was impressive in his first spell, even though Markram took him for two boundaries to start off proceedings.
Jasprit Bumrah (2/24) kept a check on the scoring with his guile at the other end. The duo added 23 runs for the opening wicket before Amla was caught behind, pulling down leg side off a short ball from Thakur.
The pacer struck for a second time within the first power-play as a clever change of pace foxed Markram completely and he simply chipped a catch to Shreyas Iyer at the cover, who caught well for a change.
It brought AB de Villiers (30) and Khaya Zondo (54 runs) to the crease, and they rebuilt the innings with a 62-run partnership for the third wicket. They rotated the strike well and looked to be positive even against the spinners.
Zondo was even harsh on Chahal and smacked him for two sixes in an over. It was perhaps the liveliest session of batting from South Africa in this series, barring their late assault during the Pink ODI.
De Villiers and Zondo brought up their 50-partnership off 52 balls as the Proteas crossed 100 in the 19th over.
This is when things turned downwards again. Chahal bowled de Villiers in the 21st over as the batsman backed away and looked to make room.
The breakthrough almost squeezed the scoring rate as the batsmen started eating up deliveries. 57 balls passed without a boundary and the scoring rate fell from 4.7/over to 4.27/over after de Villiers dismissal. In this passage of play, Zondo and Heinrich Klaasen (22) added only 30 runs off 58 balls.
Klaasen tried taking more risks but only managed to hit straight to Virat Kohli at short cover off Bumrah. It became a quick double blow as Ferhaan Behardien (1) wasted his first outing in the series and holed out to third man off Thakur where Bumrah held a stunning catch.
South Africa had lost two wickets in the space of six balls and were reduced to 136 for five in the 32nd over. Chris Morris (4) further exasperated his dressing room as he holed out off Yadav in the deep two overs later.
Zondo and Andile Phehlukwayo (34) tried to bring some stability to the innings. In doing so, Zondo scored his maiden ODI half-century off 67 balls. He was out shortly afterwards, caught in the deep in a bid to slog Chahal.
Chris Morris threw his bat around and scored 20 off 19 balls, inclusive of two sixes, before he was out caught off Hardik Pandya (1-39). The all-rounder came up with another immaculate spell in keeping with his form in the latter half of the series.
Running out of partners, Phehlukwayo attacked the Indian bowling and managed to push the score past 200 in the 47th over, before he was last man out, returning a catch to Thakur.
(With PTI inputs)