CUTTACK: The much-hyped second T20I, the first at the Barabati Stadium, ended on a sour note due to unruly crowd, which disrupted the game twice, throwing water bottles to the ground, causing a 51-minute disruption.
Amid the chaos and confusion, hosts India humiliatingly surrendered by six wickets with 17 balls to spare, conceding South Africa the three-match series.
India lost the match in the first half itself as they were bundled out for a paltry 92 after being put into bat on a track, which contrary to expectations, offered unpredictable bounce from the beginning and turn later on. This was the second lowest total by India in a T20I, the lowest being 74 against Australia at Melbourne in 2008. The Proteas suffered a few hiccups before an uneaten 30 by in-form JP Duminy steered them home.
But it was the indisciplined crowd that took centrestage rather than the outcome of the low-scoring match. The crowd had the notoriety of causing trouble by throwing water pouches to the ground. This time, they crossed the limits, as they hurled water bottles.
It began when India’s innings ended on an embarrassing note. Hundreds of water bottles came flying from Gallery 4 and landed behind the boundary rope near the VIP arena. Then when South Africa were cruising home, in the 11th over, spectators began to throw bottles again from almost every gallery. Play resumed after 20 minutes but to be stopped again two overs later. This time, match referee Chris Broad intervened and after on-field discussions with umpires, players retreated to the dressing room.
The match resumed after Gallery 4 and 1 were vacated. It was strange that the police, which had been boasting of tight security measures for over a month, were caught napping. Even stranger was that Odisha Cricket Association allowed people to take water bottles into the stadium. The state body might rue if the stadium is barred from hosting international matches for a few years.
That overshadowed the match itself. India were expected to bounce back. But to the utter dismay of the 45,000-strong capacity crowd, India's batsmen committed hara-kiri. It all began before the start of the match as medium-pacer Sreenath Aravind was displaced with off-spinner Harbhajan Singh. Surprisingly, left-arm spinner Axar Patel, whose nightmarish 22-run over cost India dear in Dharamsala, was retained. So was Ambati Rayudu, notwithstanding his first-match failure.
India suffered a dramatic collapse. Only four batsmen reached double digits, while four failed to open their account. After Shikhar Dhawan was trapped in front of the wicket by Chris Morris, there was no end to India's misery. Poor running between the wickets, which resulted in Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli getting run out, and suicidal stroke-play compounded their plight.
The pitch was not easy to bat on. But South Africa’s bowling performance was not great either. It was India’s atrocious batting that made the opposition bowling attack look unplayable.