Virat Kohli broke a number of records on the way to his 35th ODI ton to guide India to a thumping 8-wicket win over a hapless South Africa to take the six-match ODI series 5-1 at Centurion.
The Indian captain slammed an unbeaten 129 off 96 balls at a strike rate of 134.38, pummeling the South African bowlers to every corner of the ground. He became the first ever batsman to amass 500 runs in a bilateral ODI series, surpassing teammate Rohit Sharma (491 in 2013 against Australia), who previously held the record for most runs in an ODI series. He ended up with 558 runs in the series.
Kohli also became the the highest-scorer in a bilateral ODI series as captain, leaving behind the likes of Australian George Bailey (478 runs versus India in 2013-14), South African AB de Villiers (367 versus Pakistan in 2012-13 ), de Villiers (358 versus India in 2015-16) and New Zealand skipper Kane Willamson (346 versus Pakistan in 2014.
Chasing a target of 205, India lost previous match centurion Rohit Sharma early but the arrival of Kohli ended any bit of belief South Africa had. Ngidi and Morkel bowled their heart out, trying to bounce out Kohli but the Indian captain showed batsmanship of another level, fighting fire with fire, pulling them to the right and left of square leg.
Kohli reached his hundred off 82 balls and stitched a 61-run stand first with Shikhar Dhawan (18) and then an unbroken 125-run third wicket partnership with Ajinkya Rahane (34*) to take India home with 107 balls to spare.
Earlier, after winning the toss, young paceman Shardul Thakur made his first appearance in the series count with a four-wicket haul as India yet again choked the South African batsmen, dismissing them for a below-par 204
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 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.ABP