India outplayed South Africa in all areas to secure a monumental 130-run win in the Pool B clash at the MCG.
It was South Africa’s worst ever World Cup defeat.
Shikhar Dhawan will receive most of the plaudits following his knock of 137, an innings that helped India post a formidable 307-7. But to single Dhawan out would be unfair, as Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane also made some important batting contributions, while the bowlers backed up that performance with a controlled and skillful display.
Some suggested that the target of 308 was gettable considering the quality of South Africa’s top six. However, the pitch at the MCG was not as quick as the Proteas would have hoped. History was also against the South Africans, considering the highest total batting second at the MCG was, and still is, 300.
Neither Quinton de Kock nor Hashim Amla looked comfortable in the conditions. The former departed early when he popped a catch to mid-off, while Amla subsequently hit a short delivery straight down the throat of fine leg. India were terrific in the field, and Mohit Sharma made another significant contribution when he whipped the ball in to MS Dhoni and effected the run out of AB de Villiers.
The second run was never on, but perhaps De Villiers felt that he needed to take a chance. The Indian spinners were on top of the South African batsmen at that stage, and the required run rate was starting to climb.
Nevertheless, it was a chance that didn’t pay off, and you could tell by Dhoni’s reaction what the wicket of De Villiers meant to India’s chances.
Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s top scorer with 55, was also strangled into submission in the end. The Proteas No 3 tried to hit Mohit Sharma over the top, but only succeeded in finding mid-off.
JP Duminy, one of the heroes in South Africa’s first pool match against Zimbabwe, was dismissed by Ravichandra Ashwin for 6. The required run rate skyrocketed, and a desperate David Miller perished in an attempt to meet the demand.
While the batting performance was poor, the Proteas will also lament their bowling and fielding effort. How they 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 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 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.
After starting slowly, Dhawan accelerated in the middle overs and eventually surpassed the 100-mark after 122 balls. The left-handed batsman kept going after reaching the milestone, and eventually finished on 137, a record score against South Africa at a World Cup.
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 1-85 in nine overs.
It was billed as the clash that would determine the winner of Pool B. And having secured the win with a great all-round display, India are now favourites to realise that objective.
The Proteas have much to rectify in the coming days. They will play the West Indies on Friday, a team they beat well in the recent ODI series in South Africa.
However, the islanders have some momentum after claiming a victory against Pakistan. They will be no easy beats.
India 307-7 in 50 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 137, Ajinkya Rahane 79, Virat Kohli 46, Morné Morkel 2-59)
South Africa 177 in 40.2 overs (Faf du Plessis 55, AB de Villiers 30, Ravichandra Ashwin 3-41, Mohammed Shami 2-30)
India won by 130 runs