India fell short by just two big hits in the first ODI against South Africa, said wicket-keeper batter Sanju Samson who made an unbeaten 86 in a losing cause in Lucknow.
Chasing a stiff 250-run target in 40 overs in a rain-truncated game, the hosts lost by nine runs.
Besides Samson, Shreyas Iyer (50) and Shardul Thakur (33) also played good hands but couldn't take India over the finishing line.
"I love spending time at the wicket, especially in India colours. We play to win the match. I fell short by just two shots -- one four and a six. I will try to make up for that in the next match but I am happy with my contribution," Samson said in the post-match press conference.
Needing 30 runs off the last over, Samson hit Tabraiz Shamsi for one and three boundaries to garner 20 runs but it was not enough. He did not play a single ball in the 19th over, potentially proving to be the difference in the game.
"South Africa bowlers were bowling really well but Shamsi was going a little expensive so we thought we can target him. I knew he had one over left so if we needed 24 runs, I was confident that I could hit four sixes. So I was taking it deep. That was our plan," Samson said.
With the city witnessing persistent rains for the last three days, the pitch was damp initially and offered movement for the bowlers.
"If you have noticed South Africa innings, you could see it was difficult to make runs with the new ball. After 15 overs (David) Miller and (Heinrich) Klaasen batted really well, it became easy.
"The ball wasn't moving. Batting became easy after 15-20 overs," Samson said.
After the initial struggle, Miller (75 not out off 63 balls) and Klaasen (74 not out off 65 balls) shared 139 runs for the unbroken fifth wicket to take the visitors close to the 250-run mark.
The Indian bowlers struggled in the death overs, conceding 54 runs in the last five overs.
"I made 80 odd runs but I also made mistakes. It was a learning lesson for us and we would look to make up for that in the next match."
"We have some space to improve but we also need to look at the batsman we are bowling at. Someone like David Miller is the best finisher in the world at the moment and bowling against him in this ground was very challenging," Samson said.
"We responded decently I think. No-a-days 50 runs in 5 overs has become easy but definitely we can improve. They are a very experienced team so we will have a very challenging series ahead."
The second ODI will be played at Ranchi on Sunday.