South Africa shed `chokers` tag with win over India
Nagpur: South Africa nailed a thriller to win by three wickets against India in a crucial World Cup tie. Shedding the ‘chokers’ tag, Graeme Smith’s men held on their nerves in front of a deafening Nagpur crowd and sent a strong signal to all the other opponents in the tournament.
The stars of the day for India were the top order batsmen led by Sachin Tendulkar and the bowlers led by Harbhajan Singh. But the Proteas came up with a solid all-round show to counter the Indian flashes on the field and get the much needed breather in the tournament.
MS Dhoni’s stumping of Jean-Paul Duminy off Harbhajan’s bowling gave India the first real window of opportunity to seal the game in their favour as the South African scorecard read 238/5 in 42.3 overs.
Soon after, Munaf Patel claimed Morne van Wyk (5) to get India the sixth South African scalp as the required run-rate built up on the visitors. Johan Botha (23) was the seventh man to fall while trying to hit one beyond the boundary ropes for the second time in the 48th over.
However, the Proteas had other plans for the night as no other wicket fell and Dhoni’s gamble to give the final over to traditionally expensive Ashish Nehra yielded expected results.
Harbhajan had spun into action just when South Africa were building on a dangerous partnership with the wicket of half-centurion Hashim Amla (61) earlier. Amla had forged a solid partnership with Kallis to keep the match evenly poised despite an economical approach by the Indian bowling staff.
In the first half of the match, a total failure of the middle and lower order batsmen in the last ten overs saw South Africa restrict India to 296 all out. The brilliant comeback was an apt reply to India’s top order whose efforts were simply laughed at by the rest of the team including the captain.
Dhoni’s men looked completely clueless after the top order batsmen had provided them with the best possible start, simply falling like a pack of cards in a hurricane. They managed to lose their nine wickets in a span of just 29 runs on a batting friendly wicket.
The fall of the wickets had been triggered with South African pacer Dale Steyn who finally took a wicket at the right time as Gautam Gambhir (69) was out trying to up the ante just after Tendulkar’s fall.
The result was two fresh feet at the crease as the death overs started. The fall of Yusuf Pathan’s wicket for a duck soon after, meant hard work for the new batsmen, who were expected to keep the scoring rate up till the end. However, pressure was clearly evident on the incoming batsmen who desperately looked for boundaries.
Yuvraj Singh (12) was claimed by Kallis while trying to send one into the orbit. The ball found the safe hands of Johan Botha at the ropes to see half the Indian team back in the dressing room.
The middle order lost its way completely and it was reinforced by the fall of Virat Kohli (1), as the once easily scalable 350+ score seemed distant. Dale Steyn was right on the money as he continued with the hard work, getting his third wicket of the innings with rattling Harbhajan Singh’s stumps, the seventh Indian scalp. He went on to get a five wicket haul in the end from his stipulated overs.
Earlier in the day, Sachin Tendulkar had slammed his 99th international century in lesser balls to give India the decisive edge against South Africa in the crucial World Cup tie. He was dismissed at a score of 111 runs off Morne Morkel’s delivery as the Indian scorecard read 267/2 in the 40th over.
Fans at the VCA stadium at Nagpur were treated to some pyrotechnics by the fabled Indian line-up spearheaded by Tendulkar as Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag too slammed fifties. Sixes and boundaries were the norm of the run scoring with the Proteas going for a leather hunt in the evening sun.
The first blow to the Indian campaign was dealt by Faf du Plessis as he clean bowled Virender Sehwag (73).
Tendulkar had earlier come up with a faster fifty than his partner at the other end to give India the best start in the World Cup, setting the stands on fire. Just before Sachin’s feat, Sehwag had raced away to his 37th ODI fifty in just 44 deliveries to put extra pressure on the South African bowlers as the Indian scorecard raced past the 100-run mark in the twelfth over itself, the fastest of the tournament.
Sehwag had started the proceedings with a four, his trademark in the World Cup so far. With his fifth first ball four in a row, Sehwag set the tempo of the initial phase with a few more cracking hits to the fence.
The first loss to Team India in the tournament also opens-up the debate of being able to stand up to quality opponents as this was termed as their first ‘real’ match of the World Cup after the England match was luckily tied.