India overcame the absence of four top stars to beat South Africa by one run in a thrilling one-day international on Sunday and take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Wayne Parnell was run out off the final delivery, attempting a second run that would have tied the match, to leave the Proteas on 297 all out in reply to India’s 298-9.
The tourists were tottering at 225-8 in the 43rd over when the ninth-wicket pair of Parnell and Dale Steyn swung the day-night match around by adding 65 off 38 balls.
South Africa, needing 26 off the final 12 deliveries, smashed 16 runs in the penultimate over of Ashish Nehra that included a six each by Parnell and Steyn.
With nine runs required from five deliveries, seamer Praveen Kumar bowled Steyn and conceded just seven more off the next four to hand India a thrilling win.
Parnell hit a defiant 49 off 47 balls and Steyn plundered an 18-ball 35, but the pair failed to take the tourists across the line at the Sawai Man Singh stadium in Jaipur.
Earlier, Suresh Raina top-scored with 58 off 63 balls and Virender Sehwag hammered a typically aggressive 46 off 37 balls as the hosts piled up 298-9 after being sent in to bat.
South Africa’s stand-in captain Jacques Kallis starred for the tourists with both bat and ball, claiming 3-29 from seven overs with his medium-pace bowling before making a fluent 89.
The veteran all-rounder hit six fours and a six before being eighth out, bowled by Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, 11 runs short of his 17th one-day century.
“That was quite a finish,” said Kallis. “The guys down the order played unbelievably well. The ball came on to the bat a lot better in the second session, but we lost wickets at the wrong time.
“Credit to our bowlers also. It looked like India would get a lot over 300, but our guys did well to keep them under that.”
India took the field in the series opener without bowling spearheads Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, and frontline batsmen Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh.
Harbhajan was given permission to miss the first two matches due to his sister’s wedding, while the other three were injured.
Kallis led South Africa in the absence of Graeme Smith, who opted out of the one-dayers with a finger injury sustained during the Test series, which ended 1-1 last week.
South Africa made a flying start as Herschelle Gibbs (27) and Loots Bosman (29) put on 58 for the first wicket off just 8.4 overs.
South Africa, who were 134-3 at one stage, lost three middle-order wickets for 27 runs to slip to 161-6 by the 35th over.
Relieved Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni paid tribute to his team’s fighting qualities.
“It was a team effort,” he said. “I am quite happy with our batting, but we need to lift our game in the field. We need to bowl and field better.”
The second match will be played in Gwalior on Wednesday and the third in Ahmedabad on Saturday. — AFP