Shikhar Dhawan’s 137 has put India in a commanding position in the Pool B match against South Africa at the MCG.
While Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane played key supporting roles, it was Dhawan’s superbly paced knock that set India up for a formidable total of 307-7. After starting slowly, the left-handed batsman accelerated in the middle overs and eventually surpassed the 100-mark after 122 balls. Dhawan kept going after reaching the milestone, and eventually finished on 137, a record score against South Africa at a World Cup.
How the Proteas will regret dropping Dhawan when the opener was on 53. Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn kept things tight in the initial overs, and this pressure contributed to the dismissal of Rohit Sharma, who was run out by AB de Villiers. After that, the Proteas struggled to pick up wickets, and missed a massive chance in the 20th over when Dhawan hit the ball to Hashim Amla at gully. While it was significant that Dhawan went on to add 84 more runs, the dropped catch also allowed India as a collective to keep building towards a big score.
Dhawan and Kohli put on 125 runs for the second wicket, while Dhawan and Rahane added another 125 for the third. Rahane was especially aggressive in the later overs, taking the fight to the Proteas’ pace attack.
The South Africans suffered a setback when Philander pulled up with a hamstring injury and could not contribute more than four overs. Imran Tahir and JP Duminy were economical, but the quick bowlers Morné Morkel and Wayne Parnell battled.
If Amla had held that catch off Parnell’s bowling, the left-handed bowler would have been hailed as a hero for his part in a key dismissal. As it was, Parnell and South Africa’s heads went down with that catch. With Philander no longer an option, De Villiers had to persist with Parnell, who eventually finished with figures of 0-85 in 10 overs.
The Proteas have the top six to chase down this target. What is something of a worry is that the inclusion of Parnell at the expense of Farhaan Behardien has left South Africa light on batting in the lower middle order. For the Proteas to prevail, the big guns must fire.
India 307-7 in 50 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 137, Ajinkya Rahane 79, Virat Kohli 46, Morné Morkel 2-59)
South Africa need 308 to win