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Protea Fire
Source: WION

Protea Fire.

Not just an emotion, but a unifier of sorts.

Not just a beautiful Insta-filter drenched in color but something that often makes the fans blood boil just as it makes their hearts swell with pride. Right?

South Africa, a team that’s given world cricket Kallis, Sir Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock, De Villiers among many others have one of the furious bowling attacks, a top-notch batting unit, an agile unit of fielders and what not? Yet, as seen so far, they are yet to win a game in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup.

Who can take the Protea Fire higher, we don’t know. But here’s what we do. Virat Kohli’s India, who take on the Proteas in a virtual do or die for the South Africans are yet to play their first game.

In a contest that already has an exciting build-up to it, with news surrounding Dale Steyn’s departure from the World Cup even before bowling a delivery leaves South Africa jittery, one wonders what might happen a few hours from now.

But here’s a basic piece of truth.

To many around the world and let’s face it, the sentimental lovers of the game and the purists, SA deserve to win the ICC event simply because as seen in the past, in most of the big tournaments, this is a team that ends up proving it’s got everything going for it but the ability to hold its nerve.

Calling spirit behind Protea Fire as chokers is about as insulting and unappealing an idea as is showing a top bloke anywhere in the world a particular finger from the fist that doesn’t convey a polite message.

We all love South Africa, don’t we?

Moreover, that the Proteas are habitual of turning a winning situation into a losing one, makes us feel for a team that plays cricket the way it should be: with pure passion and pride.

But before the intense contest begins between the two, one that could quite possibly edge South Africa even closer to yet another heartbreak or could well see India being challenged in a way few would imagine, let’s examine how the two fared in their last 5 face-offs?

 

Second ODI, India tour of South Africa at Centurion, Feb 4, 2018

India won the toss, asked SA to bat first and the decision of the Indian captain Virat Kohli proved right.

The Indian bowlers bundled out South Africa for just 118 in 32.2 overs.

The dazzling duo went on to clinch 8 wickets in the match.

That said, like the first ODI, the duo sent half of the South African batsmen to the long walk back to the pavilion.

Rohit Sharma got out early by Rabada on just 15.

Dhawan – with an unbeaten 51 and Kohli- with an unbeaten 46 would finish the game in just 20.3 overs. India reigned by 9 wickets.

SA: 118/10   IND: 119/1 Player of the Match: Yuzvendra Chahal (5 for 22)

As a result, India got a 2-0 lead in the 6 matches ODI Series.

 

Third ODI, India tour of South Africa at Cape Town, Feb 7, 2018

This time Faf won the toss and asked India to bat.

Rohit Sharma disappointed Indian fans quite like the previous outing the but Kohli-Dhawan duo soon began thrashing the  SA bowling attack.

Indian Captain Virat Kohli, with an unbeaten 160 and opener Shikhar Dhawan (76) featured in 140 runs stand for the 2nd wicket.

Rahane, Pandya, Dhoni, Jadhav all got out early,  Kohli on the other end kept the scoreboard busy.

India made 303-6 in 50 overs.

Yadav and Chahal roared again as both took 4 wickets apiece and restricted South Africa to just 179. That was never going to help, isn’t it?

JP Duminy (51), emerged as the only African batsman who managed to score a half-century.

Aiden Markram (32) and David Miller (25), respectively, got the start but they couldn’t convert into a big inning.

The result? Advantage India, yet again.

IND: 303/6   SA: 179/10 Player of the Match: Virat Kohli (160)

 

Fourth ODI, India tour of South Africa at Johannesburg, Feb 10, 2018

Indian captain won the toss and chose to bat first.

Rohit Sharma’s poor form continues, departed early in 4th over of the innings by Rabada.

Delhi lads Kohli (75) and Dhawan (109) stunned proteas bowler with another 100+ stand for the 2nd wicket.

MS Dhoni’s (42) run-a-ball innings lead India to a total of 289 for 7 in 50 overs.

South African openers got off to a decent start but the Protea Fire, that magical touch was missing. The hosts couldn’t utilize it as Bumrah strikes in the 8th over of the  2nd innings.

With Markram gone, light drizzle compelled Indian players to leave the field as well.

The match was reduced to 28 overs, with South Africa needing 202 runs to win by the D/L method.

Kuldeep Yadav provided two quick wickets, in the form of  Amla(33) & Duminy(10). And it wasn’t hard to see what might have been the turning point of the match.

But it wasn’t over. That is precisely where the Protea Fire spirit kicked in and what did we see?

Miller (39), Klaasen (43), and Phehlukwayo(23) in an explosive inning formed the troika that cruised SA to their first win in the series. It was a fantastic win in the end

IND: 289/7   SA: 202/7 Player of the Match:  Heinrich Klaasen (43 off 27 Balls)

SA won by 3 wickets and somehow managed to keep the series alive with 1-3.

Protea Fire
Source: Hindustan Times

Fifth ODI, India tour of South Africa at Port Elizabeth, Feb 13, 2018

Finally, Rohit (115) got the needed start and he made a superb ton under pressure.

The ‘Hitman’ proved to be the one-man-army as no other batsman couldn’t even cross the hurdle of 40 runs.

Lungi Ngidi emerged as the barrier between the Indian batsmen and runs and bowled a brilliant spell ( 9-1-51-4) to restrict the Indian total to under 280. On a batting friendly surface, this was quite a feat.

Somehow India managed to put a competitive score of 274/7 on the board in 50 overs.

South Africa started positively, the first time in the ODI series openers Markram (32) and Amla (71)  managed to hold on for their first 50+ opening stand.

That is when the man with the magical arm took over the proceedings.

Bumrah would soon send the SA captain Aiden Markram to the pavilion.

But he wasn’t alone.

Pandya gave a shock to the Proteas top order, sent Amla, Duminy, de Villiers home.

Kuldeep Yadav did the rest, took 4-57 in 10 overs.

IND: 274/7   SA: 201/10 Player of the Match:  Rohit Sharma (115)

4-1, India led the series with one match to go.

 

That said, for the first time did we see a bit of history being created. Do you know how?

This was to be the first time India won the ODI series in South Africa in 25 years.

Sixth ODI, India tour of South Africa at Centurion, Feb 16, 2018

Same old, Same old story. No Protea Fire to be spotted anywhere.

One cannot possibly imagine how much would South Africa have missed Faf du Plessis?

Here’s a stat that one may not know of. Of his 5100 ODI runs, Faf’s collected over 650 alone against India at an average of 59. Moreover, of his 33 fifties, 5 have come against Kohli’s men. This is not to mention that 2 of his 11 tons have also come against his familiar opponents from the sub-continent.

Another one-sided affair, another South African batting collapse, another brilliant bowling exhibition by Indian bowlers, another ton scored by Kohli.

SA: 204/10   IND: 206/2 Player of the Match:  Virat Kohli (129 off just 96 balls)

India won the series 5-1.

Protea Fire
Source: YouTube

Virat Kohli was rightly named “Man of the Series” for his 558 runs in 6 innings.

Indian team dominated the whole series in every department. And at the end of the day, it did seem like the usual business for among the top teams in the format.

One reckons it’s needless to state that India will start as favorites to beat SA in the next few hours.

South Africa vs India, Match 8, Jun 05, Wed, 3:00 PM, The Rose Bowl, Southampton

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