Bengaluru: India were stopped at 134 for nine by a disciplined South African attack, which snuffed out eight wickets for 71 runs after initially being at the receiving end in the third T20 International here on Sunday.
Batting first owing to Virat Kohli's bold decision on one of the smallest grounds known to favour the chasing teams, India were cruising at 54 for one after dominating the first six Powerplay overs.
The departure of Shikhar Dhawan gave the South Africans an opening, and they grabbed it with both hands. Top-scorer Dhawan blazed away to a 25-ball 36 and got India off to a brisk start that yielded them 54 runs in the first six overs at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Kagiso Rabada was expensive but picked up three wickets, while there were two apiece for Bjorn Fortuin (2/19 in 3 overs) and Beuran Hendricks (2/14), who choked the run-flow after the whirlwind start.
Such was their dominance that no India batsman save Dhawan crossed the 20-run mark. Playing in his first game of the series, left-arm seamer Hendricks was easily the team's best bowler without a doubt.
Rohit Sharma got out early but he did put pace spearhead Rabada under pressure straightaway, striking him for two boundaries in his first over – one over cover and the other through extra cover.
That brought crowd favourite Kohli in the middle but Dhawan, who began the innings with a boundary, was in charge and welcomed left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi with back-to-back sixes. The first six was smashed over long-on and the for the second maximum, Dhawan sashayed down the ground, played against the turn, before striking the ball towards long-off.
Going for one too many, Dhawan mistimed Shamsi, who had his revenge after Temba Bavuma completed a neat catch. Kohli, too, followed suit as Andile Phehlukwayo pulled off a fine running catch in the deep, much to Rabada, the bowler on the occasion, and his team's relief.
Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant, who improvised to scoop Dwaine Pretorius over the fine leg boundary, threw away their wickets within a space of two balls, leaving India in trouble at 92 for five in the 13th over. After Pant fell prey to left-arm spinner Fortuin's smart piece of bowling, Iyer stepped out out only to be stumped down the leg-side.
At the toss, Kohli's contention was that he doesn't want the team to slip into a comfort zone. Batting first or second, he wants his team to be a master of all situations with little more than a year left for the T20 World Cup.