South Africa put in a superb display with the ball and in the field to beat India by six wickets in the second T20I in Cuttack on Monday and clinch the three-match series with one match to spare, despite some crowd trouble at the Barabati Stadium.
One sided Twenty20 matches are usually the least entertaining of the various forms of the game but tonight's routing of India by South Africa in Cuttack proved an exception as high drama unfolded when play was suspended twice, for at least 20 minutes each time, due to large swathes of the crowd throwing plastic bottles – some heavy with water – onto the pitch.
The capacity 50 000-plus crowd was clearly angry at their side’s inevitable surmountable two-nil series score with one match to play at Eden Gardens on Thursday.
India's request for a cracked end of season wicket so early in the season backfired as South Africa won the toss and bowled out the hosts for a paltry 92 runs in 17.2 overs – only the second time that the hosts has scored less than 100 in a T20.
South Africa chased up the paltry target with six wickets in hand and 17 balls to spare. The match was finished in front of a sparsely filled stadium after the spectators in the upper stands were all asked to leave the ground.
The bottle throwing was the focal point of the evening but it represented much more than that. India's showing was very poor but the fans reaction was disgraceful.
It has been many years since such an incident – perhaps the last comparable situation was the monkey chanting of crowds at Andrew Symonds – and the BCCI will not take kindly to it.
A smaller city like Cuttack has been given the opportunity to host such a big game but they cannot expect to host another international match anytime soon.
It was a sad evening for Indian cricket on a number of levels and it will be interesting to see how the matter is handled by the BCCI president, Shashank Monohar, on his second day in office.
Albie Morkel (3-12) produced his career-best figures as he replaced Marchant de Lange and helped complete an outstanding team effort to bowl out the hosts on the tricky surface.
South Africa were clinical in the field as they held catches, effected run outs and dived about with the energy of a side buoyed in confidence after their tremendous win in Dharamsala.
Imran Tahir (2-24) and Chris Morris (2-16) enjoyed their outings but perhaps it was the up and coming paceman Kagiso Rabada (1-18) who should be nominated as the pick of the bowlers.
Rabada bowled consistently above 140kph and varied his lines and lengths with skill and aggression – the uneven surface helped him but he seems to be settling into this side nicely.
AB de Villiers kept wicket with aplomb and T20 skipper Faf du Plessis had done well to win another toss. The Indian skipper MS Dhoni (5) however would not have enjoyed the performance of his team or fans, never mind his own showing with the bat.
Dhoni may be a T20 player on the wane after a poor season with his now defunct IPL Chennai Super Kings, six of whom were on the field for India today. Dhoni is the only player in world cricket to have played 50 T20 internationals and never score a 50 or take a wicket.
India's batting was nothing short of woeful as no partnership bore more than 30 runs. Rohit Sharma (22 off 24) had started tentatively but fairly well and his departure heralded a collapse of eight for 49 as the crowd grew more and more silent.
The first bottles were thrown during the innings break from a very large and high stand from whence the outfield is protected by a very high net – the type one might see along a driving range by a motorway – but many bottles cleared the net.
The crowd gave India a chance to take early wickets but when only three fell with under 30 runs to get the bottle throwing began once more.
The players were off for twenty minutes and then on for five minutes and then off for over half an hour before fans were ejected by the thousands of police on duty and the match was completed amidst a deathly hush.
Eden Gardens in Kolkata is the liveliest ground in the country and has its fair share of restless crowd history.
There is certain to be a lot more interest in Thursday's dead rubber than there usually is in these largely meaningless games at the end of already-won series.
Nick Sadleir in Cuttack