On Friday, veteran wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik broke the legendary MS Dhoni's record to become the oldest India batter to score a half-century in T20I cricket. Notably, it was Dinesh Karthik's maiden fifty in the shortest version of the sport and came 16 years after his debut in national colours. Dinesh Karthik played his T20I match for India back in 2006. In his 36th T20I in Rajkot, Dinesh Karthik hit a sensational 55 off 27 balls to power India to 169/6 in their quota of 20 overs against South Africa at the Saurashtra Cricket Stadium. Dinesh Karthik struck 9 fours and 2 sixes as he took the opposition bowlers to the cleaners. In the end, his knock turned out to be a match-winning one as India trumped South Africa by 82 runs, levelling the series at 2 games apiece with one more match to go at Bengaluru's M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday.

From the outset, Dinesh Karthik looked in prime form, taking the Proteas bowling apart with his AB de Villiers-like batting in Rajkot. The Tamil Nadu batter struck the ball all over the ground as he went on to provide the much-needed impetus to the Indian batting which lacked the spark early in the innings. India were in a deep hole at 81/4 in the 13th over before Dinesh Karthik combined with Hardik Pandya to bail the home team out of a difficult situation. Hardik Pandya himself made 46 of 31 balls.

Dinesh Karthik completed his first fifty for India in T20Is with a huge six against Dwaine Pretorious in the last over of India's essay as he went after the Chennai Super Kings pacer (CSK) fast bowler, walloping him into the stands on numerous occasions.

With the stadium packed to the raptures and fans screaming “DK…DK”, Dinesh Karthik put a masterclass on display, sweeping the spinners with aplomb, while pulling and driving the pacers on the up. The 37-year-old not only destroyed the South African bowlers but dealt a severe blow to their morale as well as he never looked getting out on the day.

As he left the ground, the crowd gave him a well-deserved standing ovation and why not, he had just surpassed MS Dhoni to become the oldest India batter to make a fifty in T20Is. Dhoni had previously, hit a half-century at the age of 36 against the same team in 2018.

OLDEST INDIANS TO Complete T20I Half-Centuries

37 years, 16 days – Dinesh Karthik v South Africa, 2022*

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36 years, 229 days – MS Dhoni v South Africa in 201

35 years and 1 day- Shikhar Dhawan vs Australia in 2020

Dinesh Karthik's innings turned out to be a match-winning one as India's bowlers produced a sensational show with the ball, bowling out the visitors for just 87 to complete a comprehensive 82-run triumph. Avesh Khan was among the pick of the bowlers for India as he returned with figures of 4/18. On the other hand, Yuzvendra Chahal grabbed two wickets.

Dinesh Karthik who was named the Man of the Match for his sensational innings was extremely happy with his performance.

“Just feels good, I'm getting used to being interviewed with people I played with. I'm very secure in this set up. In the last game, things didn't go well but I felt safe after going back to the dressing room. I am thinking a bit better and am able to assess situations better. That comes from planning and experience. They bowled brilliantly up front, our openers could not get going,” Dinesh Karthik told former India spinner Murali Kartik who played alongside him back in the early 2000s.

“When I went in, Hardik told me to bide time. To execute things well is great. To go and be a local boy in Bengaluru, despite not representing RCB, is a thrill. The series is on the line which is great. Rahul Dravid has focused on what batters and bowlers need to do and not the results, the dressing room is secure and feels fuzzy which is good. That clarity and environment has helped,” Karthik added.

India captain Rishabh Pant who has received a lot of criticism for his performances in the series was impressed with the way Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik combined to put India in a commanding position in the match.

“We talked about execution and here are the results! We can talk about toss but whichever team plays better generally wins. Really happy with Hardik putting up a stand while DK went for the kill, that's when the bowlers felt the pressure. As an individual, there are points for improvement but am not too concerned,” Rishabh Pant said at the post-match presentation ceremony.