No total seems safe to defend against a South Africa batting line-up comprising Reeza Hendricks, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller. Their uncluttered aggression captivated the crowds during the ODI World Cup in India where they reached the semi-finals, and again in Gqeberha on Wednesday when they chased down a revised target of 152 from 15 overs with five wickets and seven balls to spare in the rain-marred second T20I against India.

India’s Mohammed Siraj (L) watches as South Africa’s Reeza Hendricks runs between the wickets (AFP)

Hendrick, who got to play just two games at the World Cup despite hitting 85 against England in his first match because skipper Temba Bavuma opened the batting, led the charge with a 27-ball 49. India, propelled by the fifties of skipper Suryakumar Yadav and Rinku Singh, did well to reach 180/7 in 19.3 overs when the rain came down.

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With the game shortened to 15 overs once the players returned after a 57-minute interruption, South Africa would have fancied their chances even though the asking rate was 10.2 runs per over. That came down very quickly as the hosts sauntered to 38/0 in two overs. Tilak Varma, whose 20-ball 29 got India going after two early wickets, said the conditions became better for batting after the rain-enforced delay.

“In the powerplay, we gave away a few extra runs. After that, we came back strong. Due to the wet outfield, the ball was not gripping as we thought it would. Actually we batted well,” Varma told reporters after the game.

While South Africa left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi finished with excellent figures of 4-0-18-1, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav were unable to tie down the batters.

“The wicket was a bit on the slower side in the first innings when we batted,” Varma said. “Especially with the new ball, it was seaming a bit. After that, we didn’t expect but the ball was gripping a bit and spinning when Shamsi and (Aiden) Markram were bowling. So, their spells were good. Otherwise, we could have reached 200-plus.”

Though the focus will quickly move to Thursday’s third T20I in Johannesburg, India will want their fast bowlers to execute better under pressure. Left-arm Arshdeep Singh was particularly disappointing, bleeding 31 runs in two overs. There was a hint of swing in his first over but not once did he get his radar right. His second ball gave Matthew Breetzke plenty of room to charge down the track and slash over the cover fielder. When Arshdeep tried to course correct, he sprayed the ball on the pads, allowing Breetzke and Hendricks to pick him off over fine leg with minimum fuss.

“We will be planning better and doing better on the bowling side. That’s what we will be aiming for (in the third T20I),” said Varma.

India will have comfort in the knowledge that Jasprit Bumrah will spearhead the attack come the T20 World Cup. Mohammed Siraj, whose three overs on Wednesday went for 29 runs, is likely to take the new ball alongside. The third and fourth pace options, however, are far from certain at this stage. Among the contenders seem to be Arshdeep, Mukesh Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan and Shardul Thakur. Mohammed Shami could also be in the mix given his exploits as the highest wicket-taker in the ODI World Cup, but he hasn’t played for India in the shortest format for more than a year.

With India playing only four T20Is before heading to the Caribbean for the showpiece event, some of these bowlers must step up. The opportunity to stake a claim has been given to Arshdeep and Mukesh on the current tour and they will be hoping to find a way of curtailing the scoring options of this South African batting unit in the final T20 at the Wanderers.