In the second match, especially, Chahal consistently pushed the ball through instead of looking to turn it. That allowed the South African batters to hit him through the line with little worry.
After the game, Chahal sat with the coaching staff to figure out what he could do differently. The answer was he should revert to what he had previously worked for him.
Chasing 180, South Africa lost their openers, Temba Bavuma and Reeza Hendricks, inside the powerplay. But for India, it was their middle order that had been a thorn in the flesh – Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller in the first match and Heinrich Klaasen in the second.
Chahal, though, ensured there was no repeat. Perhaps expecting dew later on, which didn’t prove to be the case, Rishabh Pant introduced Chahal into the attack as early as the fifth over.
Chahal gave away only two runs in his first over. In his next, he got Rassie van der Dussen caught behind as the batter went for a cut. Dwaine Pretorius too fell in the same manner, trying to cut a fast legbreak only to edge it to Pant.
That left South Africa on 57 for 4 after the ninth over but Klaasen was still in the middle.
Before Tuesday, Klaasen had ransacked 74 runs off 28 balls against Chahal, at a strike rate of 264.28. In the second T20I, he smashing 30 off 13 balls against Chahal was a big point of difference after Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s three early wickets had put South Africa on the back foot.
But here, Chahal kept Klaasen guessing by varying his line. When he returned in the 15th over, he tossed one up wide outside off. By then the asking rate had touched 15 and Klaasen had no other option than to go after it. He ended up miscuing and Axar Patel held onto the catch backpedaling from extra-cover. The match went on till the 19th over but the contest was over with Klaasen’s wicket.
“In the last game, I was bowling a lot of sliders, and I was also bowling a bit faster,” Chahal said at the post-match presentation. “So even when I was bowling good balls, I wasn’t getting any turn. It was going like a flipper.
“My strength is to turn the ball, to get it to dip. I strayed from that itself. So it became very easy for batsmen as the ball was just going straight.
“Tonight I changed the seam position and bowled fast legbreaks in order to get some help [from the pitch]. I tried to vary my line too so that the batsmen cannot predict.
“The plan was to just bowl to my strength. I was anyway going for runs, but if I bowl to my strength and still go for 40-45 runs, I would pick up at least three wickets too, which didn’t happen in the last game.And when you dismiss two batsmen in the middle order, the pressure shifts on the batting side.”
India need to win the remaining two games as well if they are to secure the series. Chahal could play a big role in that, perhaps by doing more of the same.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo