This has been a summer of sunshine for David Miller. He had raised the bar, made impossible seem mundane, and nonchalantly dismissed bowlers with bludgeoning blows.
When seamer Harshal Patel’s change of pace extracted a miscued hit from the left-handed Miller, caught well by Ruturaj Gaikwad at extra-cover for just three, it marked the decisive moment of the contest.
There were no comebacks for South Africa after Miller’s exit and India, winning by 48 runs after bowling out the Proteas for 131, made the series scoreline 1-2 after the third ODI at the ACA-VDCA Stadium here on Tuesday night.
The last two games of the series bristle with possibilities.
The Proteas, inserting the opposition, did well to restrict the host to 179 for five after a blistering start from Ruturaj Gaikwad (57) and Ishan Kishan (54) promised much more for India.
However, the South Africans lost wickets early in the chase. Axar Patel took out Temba Bavuma with a change in trajectory and Harshal pulled his length back to extract a fatal miscue from Reeza Hendricks.
And Yuzvendra Chahal, bowling with rhythm, skill and control, spun one across Rassie van der Dussen for wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant to take a sharp catch.
The leg-spinner celebrated again when he spun one from the off-stump to consume a heavy-hitting Dwaine Pretorius.
And when the wily Chahal, flighting the ball outside off, had a fighting Heinrich Klaasen reaching out for the ball and holing out at cover, South Africa had lost another game-changer.
This was a night when Gaikwad had put his dancing shoes on. He was nimble-footed, creating the space and the room for expansive strokes.
A flicked six off Kagiso Rabada was a sign of things to come.
The intrepid opener slammed five successive boundaries off the fast Anrich Nortje in a dramatic over that saw Gaikwad charging down and striking Nortje over mid-on and the South African responding with a nasty lifter that flicked the gloves and crashed into his helmet grill before speeding to the boundary. A pristine flick was the best of the boundaries.
An inside-out cover-drive off left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, after stepping down the track, was a high quality stroke.
Kishan essayed some typically fierce pulls and sweeps.
Being short, the left-handed Kishan has the ability to get under the ball to pound it. Indeed, he employed his bat like a sledge-hammer in a compelling onslaught on Maharaj.
The 97-run opening partnership in 10 overs was broken by a delivery of flight and dip that Gaikwad knocked back to Maharaj.
Pretorius’ slower ball accounted for Kishan (54, 35b).
The South Africans regrouped and focused on sending down cutters on this dry surface – Pretorious was impressive with his control and cut – to restrict India.
For the host, Hardik Pandya batted with maturity and cricketing nous to remain unbeaten with a handy 31.
These were vital runs for India. Then came Harshal’s four-for with Miller’s scalp being the icing on the cake.