India vs SA 3rd ODI | Samson’s maiden ODI ton, Varma’s patient fifty lead India to 296 for eight

India’s Sanju Samson in action during the 3rd ODI match against South Africa of India’s tour of South Africa, 2023-24 at Boland Park, Paarl, on Thursday.
| Photo Credit: ANI

Sanju Samson carved a well-measured maiden ODI hundred as India posted a challenging 296 for eight against South Africa in the series-deciding third match here on Thursday.

Samson (108 off 114 balls) found a perfect sidekick in the patient Tilak Varma, who struck his first ODI fifty (52 off 77 balls), as they milked 116 precious runs for the fourth-wicket to place India in a position to win this series.

Samson and Varma came together when India were slightly wobbling at 101 for three after being asked to bat first.

But the pair showed excellent situational awareness.

Their partnership was all about pragmatism without letting go of any opportunity to unfurl any big shot.

Usually a free-flowing hitter, Samson shelved his macho intentions for a large part of his innings, concentrating on singles and twos as the Boland Park pitch also had this slight bite on it.

But the right-hander intermittently brought out his T20 avatar into play like when he smashed pacer Nandre Burger for a big six over mid-wicket or while executing an exquisite inside-out loft over cover off left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj for a four.

His fifty came off 66 balls with a single to third man off pacer Beuran Hendricks.

But at the other end, Varma generally struggled for flow as he could find a boundary only in his 39th ball, a scratchy pull off Hendricks.

However, the left-hander gave company to Samson to take India out of the woods.

Finally, Varma fell in his venture to accelerate, a miss-timed sweep off Maharaj ending in the hands of Wiaan Mulder in the deep.

But Samson carried on and was not to be denied a hundred this time.

The landmark moment for him came when he pushed Maharaj to long-off for a single as the dressing room went on its feet to applaud a fine dig.

Samson was dismissed as he tried to up the ante as a skier off pacer Lizaad Williams was snaffled by Reeza Hendricks inside the rings.

However, a good cameo by Rinku Singh (38 off 27 balls) helped India motor on in the end phase of the innings.

But before India made that good fightback, the Proteas bowlers had them on the ropes taking three wickets.

Debutant Rajat Patidar, who stepped in for an injured opener Ruturaj Gaikwad was a treat to watch during his 16-ball 22, exhibiting wonderful eye-hand coordination.

But Burger’s lovely in-dipper that disturbed the stumps snapped his stay and Hendricks trapped Sai Sudharsan in front of the wicket with a delivery that was angled into him from over the wicket.

KL Rahul helped Samson add 52 runs for the third wicket but the Indian captain’s effort to pull Mulder resulted in a catch to stumper Heinrich Klaasen after the ball took a deflection off his thigh pads.

However, India found two willing soldiers in Samson and Varma who effected an escape.

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