Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane set up India’s commanding win over South Africa
India may have tiptoed into the World Cup hesitant and uncertain, but it walked out of the Melbourne Cricket Ground with an almighty swagger on Sunday. South Africa, as strong a challenger as any at this tournament, was handed a crushing, humiliating beating, a 130-run defeat that will smart for some time.
Shikhar Dhawan scored a career-high 137 as India, batting first, made 307. What followed was a disciplined bowling and fielding performance as the weight of the total grew too heavy for South Africa.
Before a heaving crowd of 86, 876 — the overwhelming majority supporting India — Mohit Sharma and Mohammed Shami derailed the run-chase with early wickets. From 40 for two in 10.2 overs, South Africa — already constricted by some parsimonious bowling — was always limping.
A 68-run stand for the third wicket between A.B. de Villiers and Faf du Plessis worried India briefly, but the contest was killed with the former’s run-out.
de Villiers pushed the ball into space on the off-side and turned confidently for a second run. Mohit’s throw from the point boundary, though, was excellent and M.S. Dhoni took care of the rest.
du Plessis completed his half-century but fell trying to accelerate. That wicket sparked a collapse of seven for 44, R. Ashwin claiming three among them, as South Africa was condemned to its first loss to India in the World Cup.
The afternoon belonged to Dhawan, who bestrode the Indian innings with an imperious hundred. He flourished after what had been a ponderous first hour of cricket from the batting side. India had won the toss and hurried straight in to bat, but any early cheer evaporated with Rohit Sharma’s dismissal.
Dhawan’s drive through the covers was stopped by Duminy whereupon de Villiers swooped down on the ball from mid-off and fired a pinpoint throw at the non-striker’s end. Rohit, who had left his crease in the hope of a run, was caught well short.
The first 10 overs had realised only 36 runs, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander bowling tidy spells on a surface where the ball held up.
However, Dhawan and Virat Kohli had rolled up their sleeves and settled down to work.
Their alliance was guided by the same principles that defined their job against Pakistan: patience, opportunism, and common sense.
But even through India’s early difficulties, Dhawan had shown flashes of aggression. Anything too full, short, or wide was lashed to the boundary without hesitation.
Dhawan is a player who feeds on his own confidence and the half-century in Adelaide had clearly fuelled him well. He cut and pulled fiercely, Steyn, Morne Morkel and Wayne Parnell all freely conquered. The left-hander was dropped on 53 by Hashim Amla at point; the catch ought to have been taken but the ball had been slashed hard. It would hurt South Africa immensely.
Kohli, meanwhile, fell to Imran Tahir for 46, pulling a most benign delivery straight to short midwicket. It broke a stand of 127 and brought Ajinkya Rahane to the wicket.
Dhawan, who spends a good part of the year in Melbourne, had by then made himself at home.
He raised his seventh ODI hundred off 122 balls and carried on unhindered, whipping Morkel for a memorable six over fine-leg.
South Africa had a quivering, creaking weak link in Parnell, fielded here at the expense of Farhaan Behardien. A hamstring injury to Philander meant he could bowl no more than four overs and left Parnell shouldering a heavier load than South Africa would’ve liked in the circumstances. Rahane and Dhawan cut him to ribbons as India’s run-rate crept north.
Rahane was a delight to behold, quick on his toes and brutal on the bowling.
Morkel stands almost a foot taller than him, but with bat in hand, Rahane can appear a far bigger man.
He pummelled the bowler — the highlight of his assault was a blistering drive through the covers that resembled someone cracking a whip.
Rahane made a 60-ball-79, adding 125 (100b) for the third wicket with Dhawan.
India eventually soared to 307, leaving South Africa a slippery mountain to climb.
India’s middle overs batting did the trick
India scored consistently in the middle overs and raced to a sizeable total. Ajinkya Rahane and Dhawan added 125 runs in 100 balls, sparing none of Parnell, Morkel, Steyn or Duminy. Between overs 30 and 44, India added 120 runs.
Vernon Philander’s hamstring injury did not help South Africa, as Parnell bled 85 runs from his nine overs. de Villiers would have been better off getting more overs out of Steyn earlier.
With a total of 307, the scoreboard creates its own pressure. Mohit, Umesh and Shami throttled the scoring in the first 10 overs and from that point, South Africa was struggling. de Villiers’s run out was a happy bonus.
Rohit Sharma run out 0 (6b)
Shikhar Dhawan c Amla b Parnell 137 (146b, 16×4, 2×6)
Virat Kohli c du Plessis b Tahir 46 (60b, 3×4)
Ajinkya Rahane lbw b Steyn 79 (60b, 7×4, 3×6)
Suresh Raina c sub (Rossouw) b Morkel 6 (5b, 1×4)
M.S. Dhoni c de Kock b Morkel 18 (11b, 3×4)
Ravindra Jadeja run out 2 (4b)
Ravichandran Ashwin (not out) 5 (5b)
Mohammed Shami (not out) 4 (5b, 1×4)
Extras (lb-2, w-6, nb-2) 10.
Total (for seven wickets in 50 overs) 307.
Fall of wickets: 1-9 (Rohit), 2-136 (Kohli), 3-261 (Dhawan), 4-269 (Raina), 5-278 (Rahane), 6-284 (Jadeja), 7-302 (Dhoni).
South Africa bowling: Steyn 10-1-55-1, Philander 4-1-19-0, Duminy 7-0-39-0, Morkel 10-0-59-2, Tahir 10-0-48-1, Parnell 9-0-85-1.
PowerPlay 1 (1-10): 36/1; PowerPlay 2 (35-40): 44/0.
Hashim Amla c Shami b Mohit 22 (28b, 2×4)
Quinton de Kock c Kohli b Shami 7 (15b, 1×4)
Faf du Plessis c Dhawan b Mohit 55 (71b, 5×4)
A.B. de Villiers run out 30 (38b, 3×4)
David Miller run out 22 (23b, 2×4)
Jean-Paul Duminy c Raina b Ashwin 6 (15b)
Wayne Parnell (not out) 17 (28b, 1×4)
Vernon Philander lbw b Ashwin 0 (2b)
Dale Steyn c Dhawan b Shami 1 (7b)
Morne Morkel b Ashwin 2 (5b)
Imran Tahir lbw b Jadeja 8 (10b, 1×4)
Extras (lb-1, w-6): 7
Total (in 40.2 overs): 177.
Fall of wickets: 1-12 (de Kock), 2-40 (Amla), 3-108 (de Villiers), 4-133 (du Plessis), 5-147 (Duminy), 6-153 (Miller), 7-153 (Philander), 8-158 (Steyn), 9-161 (Morkel).
India bowling: Umesh 6-0-34-0, Shami 8-1-30-2, Mohit 7-0-31-2, Jadeja 8.2-0-37-1, Ashwin 10-0-41-3, Raina 1-0-3-0.
PowerPlay 1 (1-10): 38/1; PowerPlay 2 (35-40): 19/2.
WC matches won by India against South Africa before this game. This was its first win in four matches
Number of times South Africa has won chasing a target of 300 or more against India in ODIs out of four attempts
Wickets Ashwin had taken against South Africa in ODIs before the match for 216 runs. He took three for 41 in this game. This was only the second instance of an Indian off-spinner taking three or more wickets in a WC match, and both have come against South Africa. Harbhajan Singh took three for 53 in the 2011 edition
Source: The Hindu