'Frankly, we should have won this game ... We missed Ash's (Ravichandran Ashwin) six overs that was crucial because he was our best spinner ... until that point the plan was working beautifully but I had to get more overs from Binny and Raina'
Not taking anything away from South Africa for their sensational five-run win in the opening One-Day International in Kanpur, Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni rued Ravichandran Ashwin's injury that robbed the hosts of 5.2 crucial overs from the in-form spinner on Sunday.
Chasing a record 304 at Green Park, India faltered in the final overs to finish on 298 for seven as Rohit Sharma's 150 went in vain.
Electing to bat, the visitors rode on skipper AB de Villiers's 104 to post 303 for five in 50 overs. Umesh Yadav and Amit Mishra picked up two wickets apiece but Ashwin had to go off the field with a side strain after bowling just 4.4 overs.
"The outcome was not great for us. There were plenty that went wrong, but we showed character to get close.
“Frankly, we should have won this game ... We missed Ash's (Ravichandran Ashwin) six overs that was crucial because he was our best spinner ... until that point the plan was working beautifully but I had to get more overs from Binny and Raina," a dejected Dhoni said at the post-match presentation.
"In the end I thought our bowlers should have done a bit better. I thought the partnership between Rohit and Rahane was superb to keep it ticking ...," he added.
After a 149-run second-wicket stand between Rohit and Ajinkya Rahane (60), the chase was on till the end when Dhoni (31) failed to finish things off after falling to Kagiso Rabada (2-58), who was on a hat-trick on the final ball of the innings in the final over. India failed to get 22 runs from the final 12 deliveries, but Dhoni defended his uncharacteristic knock.
"It was a bit difficult, it was not coming at a good height so it becomes difficult on such a wicket. It was a bit two-paced once the ball gets scuffed. A lot depends on the execution part, it's not only about the boundaries you have to keep the score ticking ...," he said.
Man of the Match De Villiers was happy to have taken a 1-0 lead in the five-match series and credited leg-spinner Imran Tahir for the turnaround.
Tahir snared the wickets of Rohit and Suresh Raina in his final over -- 47th of the innings.
"I thought it was an amazing game of cricket, close games like that bring the fans in. There were lots of times when the momentum turned; I thought (Imran) Tahir's overturned the game on its head. We were out of it then. Rabada proved to be a handful and he's got a bright future ... We just want to go and rest and then move on to the next game," said de Villiers.