In what appears to be a wake-up call for India early in the series, MS Dhoni's men suffered a crushing seven-wicket defeat at the hands of South Africa in the first T20 international at the HPCA stadium in Dharamsala on 2 October.
Playing at home, the Indian team was clearly the favourites against the Proteas who are on a 72-day rigorous tour - their longest in the country. A high-scoring game, as predicted by the cricket pundits, didn't fail to deliver one bit as the visitors sealed their run-chase in the last over following a breathtaking onslaught from JP Duminy (68*).
India were pushed on the backfoot right at the start when they were asked to bat by Faf du Plessis with dew factor expected to play a crucial role in the game. However, the Indian team managed to post a competitive total of 199 runs, with Rohit Sharma (106) and Virat Kohli (43) adding 138 runs for the second wicket.
In reply, South Africa got off to a blazing start with Hashim Amla (36) and AB de Villiers (51) adding 77 runs for the first wicket. India fought back with two quick wickets, but a dismal performance in the death overs saw them on the losing side. For South Africa, Duminy and Farhaan Behardien (32) stitched a 105-run partnership to get the visitors over the line.
Here's a look at five turning points that led to India's shocking defeat against South Africa:
Akshar Patel's over
South Africa were reeling under pressure, requiring 66 runs off 30 balls when MS Dhoni handed the ball to Axar Patel in the 16th over. With Farhan Behardien (25) and JP Duminy (15) at crease, the Proteas desperately needed one big over to get the asking rate under control and that's exactly what they got from Axar's over which turned the tide in their favour. In what was turning out to be a good over once, soon became a nightmare for the Dhoni brigade as Duminy slammed young Axar for three consecutive sixes to add a vital 22 runs to the scoreboard. It was also an error in judgment from Dhoni who handed the ball to the left-handed spinner knowing a left-handed batsman like Duminy was waiting for such an opportunity.
India can learn a thing or two from their counterparts who survived a similar situation in the same match. In the first innings, India were 158/1 after 15 overs with Rohit Sharma (103) and Virat Kohli (42) when Kyle Abbott was asked to bowl the 16th over. At a time when the hosts looked poised for a big total, the right-arm seamer didn't just bowl an economical four-run over but also dismissed the two well-set batsmen (Rohit and Virat) to ensure India only scored a mere 37 runs from the final four overs.
If heavy dew at the HPCA stadium piled up the misery for Indian bowlers, the controversial decision against JP Duminy only rubbed salt to their wounds. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Team India were unlucky not to get Duminy's wicket after being trapped plumb in front of the wickets when he was on 33.
Duminy had just smacked three consecutive sixes of Axar Patel and was undoubtedly South Africa's best bet. And his wicket would have surely tested the depth of South Africa's batting line-up. Struck on his boot while trying to flick the ball, Duminy was ruled not out by umpire Vineer Kulkarni to the utter dismay of Bhuvneshwar and a jam-packed stadium. Capitalising on his second life, Duminy raced to an unbeaten 68 and sealed the game for his team.
Bowling Ravichandran Ashwin out
MS Dhoni, who returned in the side after three months, was clearly not at his prolific best. The Indian skipper, despite smashing a six on the last delivery of the first innings, was not as convincing as one would expect him to be. And, in the crucial moments of the game, his judgment failed to get his side over the line.
Ravichandran Ashwin, who struck in his second over to end AB de Villiers' blitzkrieg, was asked to bowl out his overs in the middle of South Africa's innings. It was a decision that summed up Dhoni's fateful night when Axar Patel was hammered for 22 runs in the very next over. Knowing the lack of teeth in India's seam bowling, Dhoni should have saved Ashwin for the death overs that made the difference between the two sides.
Fast bowling conundrum
MS Dhoni's decision to play to three seamers and two spinners backfired big time, especially in the fast-bowling department. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma and debutant Sreenath Aravind, India had three similarly-paced seam bowlers who failed to extract the much-needed bounce from the wicket.
Bhuvneshwar, whose economy rate in T20s is less than seven, failed to deliver under pressure as he conceded 14 runs in the 19th over, leaving South Africa just 14 runs away from victory with one over to go. Both Bhuvneshwar and Mohit conceded 40 runs in their respective spell of four overs, while Aravind was hammered for 44 runs in 3.4 overs. The lack of quality in their bowling, thereon, paved way for South Africa's emphatic seven-wicket win over the hosts.
Batting in death overs
Riding on the heroics of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, the Indian team was expected to go past the 200-run mark with ease. Scoring at 10.53 runs an over, India reached 158 runs in 15 overs at the loss of just one wicket. The platform was set and the hosts had nine wickets at their disposal to set an imposing total against the Proteas.
However, against the popular perception, the Indian team was restricted to 199 runs at the loss of five wickets in 20 overs. The Indian team scored a mere 41 runs in the final five overs at the expense of four wickets - courtesy of the impressive bowling by the South Africans. A spirited performance by the visitors in the death overs made the difference as India clearly fell short by 15-20 runs in their total.