Pathan, Harbhajan clinch another thriller for India


Cape Town : Yusuf Pathan and Harbhajan Singh’s batting heroics saw India clinch another thriller by two wickets in the third one-day international against South Africa here.

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Chasing 221 runs, India were struggling at 93/5 before Pathan (59 off 50 balls) and Suresh Raina (37) brought the visitors back in the game with a 75-run stand.

South Africa struck through Morne Morkel (3-28) and Dale Steyn (2-31), removing the duo and clawing back in the match.

But Harbhajan Singh scored an unbeaten 23 off 25 balls to clinch victory.

Harbhajan, who struck two sixes off Morkel and Wayne Parnell, and Zaheer Khan (14) put up a vital 26 run stand. They lived dangerously but kept the scoreboard moving, taking advantage of the last batting powerplay taken in the 43rd over.

India went 2-1 up in the five-match series, having got the better of South Africa by one run in Johannesburg.

India lost Murali Vijay early, caught and bowled by Steyn in the third over, but Virat Kohli (28) and Rohit Sharma (23) stitched 52 runs. In-form Kohli, who stroked five well-timed fours, nicked Morne Morkel behind the stumps.

Sharma followed Kohli as part-time spinner Jean Paul Duminy trapped him leg before.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj singh did not trouble the scorer much and soon India were staring at a huge task.

Pathan and Raina batted sensibly to steady the innings. Big hitter Pathan struck off spinner Johan Botha for three sixes in one over. He continued with his belligerent batting, hitting six fours.

Just when it looked, Raina and Pathan will comfortable take India past the target, Morkel and Steyn struck in quick succession.

Morkel got the wicket of Raina and then took a brilliant catch at third man to get rid of dangerous Pathan as South Africa bounced back in contention. But Harbhajan once again came good with the bat to take the team home with 10 balls to spare.

Earlier, debutant Faf du Plessis (60) and Duminy (52) rescued South Africa from a top-order collapse but India kept the noose tight at the death to bowl out the hosts for 220.

South African captain Graeme Smith (43) elected to bat, but the Indian bowlers got good purchase from the track to reduce them to 90 for four.

Zaheer (3-43) and Munaf Patel (2-42), who scripted India’s brilliant comeback victory at Johannesburg, troubled the batsmen with their incisive spells upfront.

Zaheer bowled Hashim Amla (16) before Harbhajan (2-23) and Pathan (1-27) struck crucial blows.

All-rounder Faf du Plessis and Duminy then added 110 for the fifth wicket, before the former was dismissed by Munaf, caught by Kohli, that triggered another collapse.

Zaheer soon rattled the stumps of Duminy, putting pressure on the South African tail in the last five overs.

The South African lower order cracked as they lost six wickets for 20 runs and folded up with four balls left in the innings.