About the only positive thing to emerge from the Proteas’ third successive loss at the 2019 World Cup is that Kagiso Rabada at least rediscovered his fire.
South Africa’s bowling talisman finally backed his billing with a fine all-round performance, but he was still pretty powerless to stop India from strolling to a six-wicket win in Southampton on Wednesday.
With only 228 runs to play with, Faf du Plessis and his troops had little room for error and, frustratingly, lacked ruthlessness.
Rabada delivered a magnificent opening spell, highlighted by a hostile first over where he rushed Shikhar Dhawan, who could only spoon the delivery just out of reach of point.
However, the more important moment came shortly after when Rohit Sharma was late on a pull, gloving a chance to slip, which Du Plessis grassed after doing well to get there.
That was the moment South Africa had the door to an unlikely victory shut.
The 24-year-old quick didn’t lose heart and got his reward when Dhawan fended at a cracking ball short off a length.
Patience and discipline was the name of the game as the Proteas frustrated a subdued Virat Kohli into flashing at Andile Phehlukwayo, who had Quinton de Kock to thank for a sublime catch.
But they couldn’t get past Rohit, who lived a charmed life at times, spooning Chris Morris over point and also edging Phehlukwayo short of first slip.
His class eventually shone as he showed fine application in ending on an unbeaten 122.
Just to rub salt in the wounds, Rabada had him top-edging a hook on 107, but David Miller inexplicably dropped a sitter.
Rabada would end with 2/39 from his ten overs.
He deserved so much better.
Spin once again proved a thorn in South Africa’s flesh, with the wrist-spinning duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav snapping up five victims.
It reminded strongly of the duo’s dominance on South African shores last year, when they combined for an incredible 33 wickets in a 5-1 ODI series win.
Chahal was excellent in claiming 4/51, crippling the Proteas’ middle order with his variation and drift.
Yadav didn’t quite hit his straps though he still claimed the key wicket of JP Duminy to leave the South Africans reeling at 89/5.
David Miller (31) and Andile Phehlukwayo (34) launched a cautious recovery, before Chahal came back to remove both.
At 158/7, the Proteas seemed dead in the water before India took their foot off the pedal, allowing Morris and Rabada (31 not out) to give their team a bit of hope with a gusty eighth-wicket stand of 66.
Morris (41) in particular played an admirable hand, mixing his natural aggression well with a bit more responsibility.
Earlier, Jasprit Bumrah’s (2/35) superb opening spell had the opening pair of Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock floundering.