India bowlers made the most of extremely favourable bowling conditions to set up an ultimately straightforward eight-wicket win over South Africa in the first T20 in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.
Fast bowlers Arshdeep Singh and Deepak Chahar made the new ball bend around corners on a green surface as South Africa recovered from an appalling start to make 106-8.
In the chase, India lost opener Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli cheaply to the menacing Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje. But Suryakumar Yadav disregarded the conditions as he blasted an unbeaten 50 from just 33 balls with five fours and three sixes to help seal victory. Opener KL Rahul took his time and gave able support from the other end, finishing the match with a six and remaining not out on 51.
Earlier, the Proteas had slumped to a scarcely believable 9-5 after 2.3 overs before some attacking batting and casual bowling from the Indians brought the proceedings to a gentle simmer.
Number eight Keshav Maharaj hit 41 off 35 balls to help South Africa bat the full 20 overs and add some respectability to their total.
Chahar took two wickets and left-arm pacer Arshdeep returned figures of 3-32 to kick-start India's dominance with the ball despite losing pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah to “back pain” before the start of the match.
Chahar bowled skipper Temba Bavuma for a fourth-ball duck and fellow opener Quinton de Kock dragged a delivery on to his stumps from Arshdeep.
The Proteas slipped further into trouble when Arshdeep had Rilee Rossouw caught behind for nought and then bowled David Miller the next ball.
It was South Africa's worst-ever start to a T20 international when Tristan Stubbs fell to Chahar in the third over. Aiden Markram (25) Wayne Parnell (24) put together 33 runs for the sixth wicket to slow India's momentum.
Markram hit three fours and one six before being trapped lbw by Harshal Patel as India successfully reviewed the on-field umpire's initial decision. Parnell fell in the 16th over but Maharaj stood firm before his knock ended in the final over as Patel picked up his second wicket.
Off-spinner Ravi Ashwin was the unsung hero of the Indian bowling effort, giving away just eight runs from his four overs.
After the match, opener Rahul said conditions were one of the toughest he had faced in T20 cricket, which made his fifty one of his most treasured.
“Definitely, right up there [as the toughest pitch],' Rahul said. “We have played in some difficult conditions like this but I haven't got runs, so this was hard work. It was unbelievable for Surya to come out there and play those shots.
“We saw how balls were flying, nipping around, two-paced and everything. 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.”