Following a comprehensive 0-2 T20 series loss, Team India's bid to turn the series against South Africa suffered an early setback after the hosts were humbled by five runs to lose the first One-Day International (ODI) at the Green Park stadium in Kanpur on 11 October.
MS Dhoni-led India faltered in their chase of 303 runs as the visitors continued to dominate in hostile conditions to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series. Rohit Sharma (150) and Ajinkya Rahane (60) were the star-performers for the hosts who failed to survive the South African test, yet again.
After losing Shikhar Dhawan (23) in the eighth over, Sharma and Rahane stitched a crucial partnership of 149 runs for the second wicket to steady India's run-chase. However, Farhaan Behardien struck in the 34th over to break the partnership as the visitors clawed their way back into the game.
Despite losing a well-set Rahane, India were still favourites to seal the run-chase with the likes of Virat Kohli and Sharma at the crease. The Proteas were wary of Kohli's batting prowess and needed a wicket to tighten their noose on the hosts. And, that's exactly what Dale Steyn did when he scalped Kohli for a mere 11 runs in the 40th over.
Kohli's wicket saw the Indian captain MS Dhoni promoting himself in the batting order as he made way to partner Sharma in the middle. The duo added 55 runs for the fourth wicket with the Mumbai batsman doing the bulk of scoring.
Requiring 35 runs off 24 balls, India were cruising in their run-chase when AB de Villiers tossed the ball to his premier spinner Imran Tahir for the 47th over. In a bid to repay the faith of his captain, the South African spinner dismissed Sharma on the very first delivery and then sent Suresh Raina (3) back to the hut on the fifth delivery to rattle the hosts.
Despite the loss of Sharma and Raina in a quick succession, the Indian fans were still counting on Dhoni to get their team over the line. But the Indian skipper, once again, failed to finish the game for his team as he fell prey to Kagiso Rabada after scoring 31 runs off 30 balls.
Earlier, South Africa romped to a mammoth total of 303 runs following the batting heroics of AB de Villiers who remained unbeaten at 104. Faf du Plessis also played a valuable innings of 62 runs to help the visitors post a competitive total after batting first.
India also paid dearly for the loss of Ravichandran Ashwin who has been ruled out of the series after suffering a side-strain injury in the 32nd over. Amit Mishra was the pick of the bowlers for India for his figures of 2/47 in his spell of 10 overs. Umesh Yadav was also amongst the wicket-takers but was far too expensive with his figures of 2/71 in 10 overs.
India's poor run at home against a rampaging South African brigade continues with questions on Dhoni's credibility as a player gaining voice.