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India beat South Africa : ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 : Dr. Nilesh D. Mehta



India beat South Africa : ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 : Dr. Nilesh D. Mehta

Regardless of a favourable result in this World Cup game or not, India and South Africa were reasonably certain of the fact that they would make it to the quarter finals. India won the toss and predictably skipper M.S. Dhoni elected to bat first. It was an unfortunate slip for Rohit Sharma and a brilliant throw by South Africa skipper AB de Villiers that gifted Proteas their first India wicket.

Then, it was the Shikhar Dhawan show. This Delhi cricketer was imperious in his strokeplay. Virat Kohli was quite content being an able ally during their productive second wicket stand. With a relatively quiet start with the first ten overs fetching 36, Kohli and Dhawan continued to be clinical in gathering runs to get to 83-1 after 20 overs.

Kohli was dejected with himself when he could not put away a short pitched delivery of leg-spinner Imran Tahir and was caught easily at mid on. Experiencing some anxious moments on 99, Dhawan finally played a square cut to reach a well deserved seventh ODI hundred, an almost chanceless innings. He was grassed at 52 by Hashim Amla. But it was a matter of time for this southpaw to rise to the occasion at the magnificent MCG and oblige the crowd.

India slowed down in the middle overs with some well directed bouncers by Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn until Ajinkya Rahane treated a Morkel delivery with utter disdain for a straight boundary. The pace of scoring notched up significantly as Rahane continued to gain in confidence and the pair continued to plunder runs off the South African attack. A magnificent six followed by a deft boundary off a Steyn over from Ajinkya had MCG crowd on its feet as India continued to prosper. Dhawan scored his best ODI score in this match eclipsing his previous score of 119 against West Indies in Kanpur. At the other end, Rahana notched up his 9th ODI fifty while giving great support to Dhawan.

Dhawan’s 137 off 146 balls is the highest individual score against South Africa in a World Cup beating 134 not out by Stephen Fleming. This well-crafted innings laid the foundation for a respectable score of 307 in front of 86000 fans. Rahane’s contribution was interspersed with some wonderfully lofted strokes and orthodox shots on the off side. The best part of Ajinkya’s batting was that he played purely cricketing shots and was never hustled by the South African bowlers. With wickets in hand, India did better in the last ten overs against South Africa compared to their previous encounter against Pakistan.

India’s performance on the field could best be described as  “complete performance” and a match winning effort. Among India’s regular bowling unit, Umesh Yadav was the only bowler who went wicketless. South Africa’s downfall started early when Kohli held on to a drive off Quinton de Kock. The Indian team was understandably quite jubilant when they saw the back of Amla after a miscued hook shot. The South African batting has a short tail and their skipper AB de Villiers, arguably the best in the world at the moment, was unfortunately run out while trying to steal a second run from Mohit Sharma. There was a sense of urgency and purpose in the fielding unit for Dhoni’s team.

Like in many team sports, defense wins matches and India proved that point with a brilliant show of their fielding. The South African batsmen were unable to deliver the goods today. Their menacing fast bowlers were not impressive enough and the loss of Vernon Philander with an injured hamstring did limit the Proteas.

India’s bowling unit of Mohammad Shami, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja did exactly what was required to beat a strong team like South Africa. Collectively, they all looked sharp and meant business in not just curtailing runs but taking wickets too. In the end, it was that intensity that brought India victory over South Africa by a whopping margin of 130 runs.

India is now comfortably placed at the top of the table in Group B and now head to Perth in Western Australia to meet UAE on February 28.