PAARL: Quinton de Kock won a stroke-filled battle with rival wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant as South Africa clinched their one-day international series against India at Boland Park in Paarl on Friday.
South Africa chased down India's 287 for six and won the second match in the three-game series with 11 balls to spare.
De Kock was named man of the match after scoring 78 runs off 66 balls and pulling off a spectacular leg side stumping, trumping Pant, who made a hard-hit 85 but missed a crucial stumping chance offered by De Kock.
"It's great to have Quinny back," said South African captain Temba Bavuma. "He reminded us again why he is such a valuable player."
De Kock, who announced a shock retirement from Test cricket after the first Test against India last month, was back to his best after taking paternity leave to be with his wife for the recent birth of a baby daughter.
He was in sparkling form as he and Janneman Malan put on 132 for the first wicket in just 22 overs.
De Kock raced to a half-century off 36 balls in an innings comprising seven fours and three sixes, before he missed a full toss and was leg before wicket to Shardul Thakur.
But he was lucky when he was on 32 when he went down the wicket to a delivery from off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin which went past his bat and eluded Pant, who had an opportunity to make a straightforward stumping.
Malan provided solid support for De Kock and went on to make 91 before he was bowled by a Jasprit Bumrah off-cutter which lifted off a length and deflected into the stumps off the batsman's elbow.
On a day when the temperature reached 40 Celsius, Pant scored his runs off 71 balls. He shared a third wicket partnership of 115 with captain KL Rahul, who made 55.
India must 'get better'
Rahul acknowledged that South Africa had played better on a slow pitch which he said was similar to surfaces in India.
"It is up to us to get better," said Rahul. "We have to get better at building partnerships and bowling in the middle overs."
With De Kock and Malan scoring freely, Rahul was forced to bring his experienced spin bowlers, Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal, into the attack earlier than he probably would have liked.
On the same pitch that was used for the first game on Wednesday, there was plenty of turn-on offers towards the end of the match but Ashwin and Chahal each had only three overs left going into the last 20 overs.
Remarkably, South Africa's three spin bowlers including Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, and Tabraiz Shamsi simply outperformed the Indian veterans, claiming a combined four wickets for 143 runs in 26 overs.
Ashwin and Chahal conceded 115 runs in their 20 overs with only Chahal picking up a wicket, that of Bavuma.
"The spinners have done a splendid job," said Bavuma.
"In South Africa we pride ourselves on our fast bowlers, so to see the spin bowlers bringing the game home for us really makes us aside to be reckoned against."
The match was played a day after Cricket South Africa announced that coach Mark Boucher was facing charges of gross misconduct, related to allegations of racism, which could lead to his dismissal.
Bavuma did not refer directly to the Boucher issue during the post-match presentation but emphasized that he was leading a tight-knit team.
"We have a lot of self-belief and confidence in our ability," said Bavuma.
"We believe in each other. The biggest thing is that we go out there and fight for one another. We are not a team of superstars who rely on individual performances. We really try and put in a team effort."