“What a year…”: Ex-India Star heaps praise on KL Rahul after South Africa’s triumph

Former Indian cricket team all-rounder Irfan Pathan was all praise for KL Rahul for his captaincy following India’s historic ODI series win over South Africa on Thursday. India beat South Africa in the series by 78 runs as Rahul became the second ever Indian captain to win an ODI series on South African soil. Pathan pointed out that Rahul has had a brilliant 2023 – both as skipper and batter – and cited the tremendous record the cricketer achieved as the captain of the Indian cricket team.

“And what a year KL Rahul is having, almost averaging 70 with bat in hand. As only the 2nd Indian captain to win a series on South African soil.” Irfan wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Rahul praised his group of young players after Sanju Samson hit a first international century and set up a series-deciding win for India against South Africa in the third one-day international at Paarl.

Samson made 108 in an Indian total of 296 for eight at Boland Park.

South African captain Aiden Markram‘s decision to send India in to bat on a slow pitch on a hot afternoon backfired as the hosts were bowled out for 218 in reply.

India arrived in South Africa without most of the players who took the country to the World Cup final last month. But they won two of the three games convincingly.

“It’s a really young group of players,” Rahul said at the post-match presentation. “They have played a lot of cricket but not at international level.

“The message was to let them adjust to international cricket and let them get used to the pressure. Have fun at first and after a few games you start expecting things from them.”

Left arm opening bowler Arshdeep Singh rose to the challenge spectacularly. He took 10 wickets in the series, including four for 30 on Thursday, and was named player of the series.

South Africa was well placed when Tony de Zorzi (87) and Markram (36) put on 65 for the third wicket to take the total to 141 in the 26th over.

But the inning fell away when Markram gloved off an attempted reverse sweep Washington Sundar to wicketkeeper Rahul and De Zorzi were legs before the wicket of Arshdeep 20 runs later.

Former internationals in the commentary box were surprised by Markram’s decision to bowl first, but Markram said he did not think it affected the result.

“We were good in small areas,” he said. “I still don’t think the surface changed much.”

Samson summed up the conditions well and batted patiently as strokes became challenging as the two white balls lost their hardness.

Samson and Tilak Varma (52) took 88 balls to make a fifty partnership for the fourth wicket, but they upped the tempo and eventually added 116 off 136 balls.

Samson made his runs off 114 balls with six fours and three sixes.

The foundation laid by Samson and Varma allowed India’s lower-order batsmen to score quickly towards the end of the innings, with 51 runs scored off the last five overs.

(With AFP inputs)

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