India captain Rohit Sharma is happy that his team got to "learn a lot" in their eight-wicket victory over South Africa in a low-scoring chase on a "tricky track" in the first T20 International.
Suryakumar Yadav's unbeaten 50 off 33 balls ensured that India didn't face too many hiccups despite KL Rahul's struggles on a track where South Africa were left tottering at 9/5 at the start of the game.
"The wicket was tricky. You learn a lot playing such a game. You understand what the team needs to do in tough conditions. It was nice to play a game like that. We knew the bowlers will get something seeing grass on the pitch, but we didn't expect help for the full 20 overs," Rohit said at the post-match presentation ceremony. Rohit admitted that the pitch was a bit damp and that made South Africa stay in the contest despite a paltry score of 106/8.
"It was still damp. Both teams were in the contest and the team that played better won the game. We started well, got five wickets in quick time and that was the turning point. It was a perfect showcase of how to bowl when there is help for the pacers." While Rahul scored a half-century (51) off 56 balls, Rohit said that one got to respect the conditions.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy. Got to respect the conditions. Lost two wickets and that partnership between KL and Surya got us home. Surya's attacking batting helped me take my time."
KL Rahul, whose scratchy batting got papered over by Suryakumar Yadav's regal half-century, said that his partner's attacking intent allowed him to take his own time. It was because of Rahul's struggles, India scored only 17 in six Powerplay overs, but Surya's imperious form didn't allow South Africa to make a comeback.
"Definitely, right up there (as the toughest pitch)," Rahul said when asked if it was the toughest strip he has batted on in T20Is. "We have played in some difficult conditions like this, but I haven't got runs. So this was hard work."
He was all praise for Surya's approach. "It was unbelievable for Surya to come out there and play those shots. we have seen how balls were flying, nipping around, two-paced and everything that can be hard for a batter that was in the wicket today.
"And for Surya to come with that approach after the first ball that hit him, he just woke up and wanted to play his shots, be aggressive and take on the bowling. That helped me take my time and play one end." Rahul said that he expected the track to do a bit but not to the extent it did.
"Not that much. We did practice here yesterday and that was a humbling experience as well, we all came in prepared mentally as it was not going to be an easy wicket, and I was ready to do the dirty work, ready to be challenged and get the job done for the team." Rahul also praised young Arshdeep Singh, whose three wickets in his first over set up the game."He's (Arshdeep) growing with each game and with each outing he gets better, he is somebody who has a big heart and I have seen him in close quarters while playing in the IPL. This season what he did for his franchise was phenomenal and to be the number one death bowler in a team (Punjab Kings) which has Rabada speaks highly of him. "We always want a left-arm seamer, and it is great to have someone like Arshdeep."