Rohit Sharma survived a dropped chance and withstood a ferocious new ball spell from Kagiso Rabada. In the end, he stood tall and registered his 23rd century. Rohit’s 122*, combined with the guile of Yuzvendra Chahal who took 4/50, restricted South Africa to a slightly underwhelming total and helped India start their ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 campaign on a high by registering a six-wicket win at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on Wednesday. This was India’s second win over South Africa in World Cups while for the Proteas, their third consecutive loss has raised plenty of questions of whether they can bounce back.
Rohit was the bedrock upon which the entire Indian innings revolved after Shikhar Dhawan, South Africa’s chief tormentor in earlier ICC tournaments, was sent back cheaply. The left-hander had his bat broken by Rabada’s pace and was uncertain against Chris Morris’ accuracy. However, Dhawan edged Rabada to depart for 8 and that brought in Virat Kohli. South Africa’s aggression quotient went up a notch but Rohit broke the shackles with two boundaries and a six in the eighth over bowled by Rabada. When it was Kohli’s turn, Morris, Rabada and Andile Phehlukwayo bowled in the right areas.
The pressure that was built up resulted in Kohli steering a short ball from Rabada only for Quinton de Kock to take a brilliant catch diving to his right. KL Rahul joined Rohit and the duo steadied the ship with a solid partnership. Both batsmen found the boundaries, with Rohit hitting his fifty by smashing a six off Tabraiz Shamsi to the wide long on fence and he targeted the chinaman by cutting a boundary to deep point and by hammering a pull to the deep backward square leg fence.
Rahul also gave him good support but the 85-run stand was broken when Rahul chipped Rabada to the mid-off fence to be out for 26. MS Dhoni started slowly but Rohit regularly found the boundaries and neared his century by clubbing Phehlukwayo flat-batted down the ground. Rohit notched up his century by nudging Tabraiz Shamsi to the long on fence and it brought about plenty of cheers from the crowd in Southampton. This was his second century in the World Cup, having blasted a ton against Bangladesh in the quarterfinal of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 clash in Melbourne. With this knock, India is nearing their second win in the World Cup against South Africa.
Although Dhoni fell for 34, South Africa did themselves no favours when David Miller dropped Rohit on 107. Hardik Pandya smashed a couple of boundaries and the victory was sealed. While acknowledging Rohit’s brilliance, it must be remembered that South Africa was undone by the brilliance of Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal.
South Africa chose to bat but Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla were sent back packing by Bumrah as the new ball dented the Proteas’s ambitions. Kuldeep Yadav and Chahal have been vital to India’s success in ODIs overseas in the last couple of seasons and South Africa faced the full force of the power of the wrist spinning duo. It was Chahal who struck first when Rassie van der Dussen employed an ambitious reverse sweep and missed it to be out for 22. The second wicket of Faf du Plessis exposed the weakness South Africa have had against spin for a long time.
The tendency of South Africa’s batsmen had been to read the ball off the pitch rather than off the hand. Chahal bowled a quicker ball and it skidded through as du Plessis played down the wrong line and was cleaned up. Chahal had maintained the pressure built up by the earlier two strikes of Jasprit Bumrah. Kuldeep joined his partner at the other end and trapped JP Duminy LBW for 3 with quick, straight delivery. David Miller and Andile Phehlukwayo tried to string a partnership but Chahal broke the stand when he caught and bowled Miller for 31. Phehlukwayo was stumped for 34 as Chahal ended with 4/50.
It took some big hits from Morris, who smashed 42 as the tail helped South Africa reach a total which gave them some respectability. However, Rohit ensured that South Africa’s survival in the tournament is now hanging on by a slim thread.