A 127-run opening stand, culminating in a maiden One-Day International century for Shikhar Dhawan, followed by some tight spin bowling gave India a comfortable 26-run win over South Africa in the ICC Champions Trophy opener in Cardiff.
The day had a slightly surreal feel to it, starting decidedly chilly, but feeling distinctly like an India home game thanks to the flat and relatively slow pitch and a vociferous crowd - 90 per cent of whom were supporting them.
AB de Villiers won what looked like being an important toss at the start of the day - early morning starts bowling with a white ball in early June are usually a recipe for swing in England - but Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan countered any initial threat from Morne Morkel and then launched into the rest of the Dale Steyn-less attack.
They added 127 in less than 22 overs, not only laying a solid foundation for the middle-order but also maintaining a healthy run rate. There was little slogging needed as the South Africans stuck to a short-pitched policy with the ball that was both poorly executed and largely inflexible. Rory Kleinveldt and Lonwabo Tsotsobe were the chief culprits and returned combined figures of two for 164 from 20 overs.
South Africa were not helped by their most effective performer, Morkel, hobbling off midway through their innings with a quad strain and an unusually poor showing from Robin Peterson with his left-arm spin.
JP Duminy and Ryan McLaren did their best to keep their side in the contest with Duminy getting through for 10 overs of off-spin at a cost of only 42 runs, and McLaren bowling well at the death to restrict India to 20 less than they should really have got. Indeed, but for Ravindra Jadeja’s late cameo, the end of the Indian innings could have been something of an anti-climax for the virtual home crowd.
He blazed 47 from 29 balls following a slight mid-innings wobble that had seen his team lose five wickets for 81 runs. Among the wickets to fall was Dhawan, who became only the second left-hander in six years to hit an ODI ton against the Proteas.
South Africa’s run chase started poorly as they lost openers Hashim Amla and Colin Ingram with 31 on the board. However, the surprise promotion of Robin Peterson to number three in the order worked wonderfully and he and AB de Villiers put on 124 in good time against an innocuous India seam attack.
Unfortunately, a brilliant piece of fielding from Ravindra Jadeja dismissed Peterson for 68; the wicket representing something of a floodgates opening moment in the South African innings. India’s fielding overall was actually better than the mixed showing from South Africa as, led by the likes of Jadeja, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina, they defied their reputation of old.
More fielding-induced wickets followed as AB de Villiers was almost run-out as a result of a calamitous mix-up with Faf du Plessis before spooning an Umesh Yadav short ball to mid-wicket, while David Miller and du Plessis ended up at the same end soon afterwards - the latter the man to depart without having faced a ball.
The pressure that led to the run-outs was arguably created by the spin trio of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina who slowly strangled the scoring rate. Ashwin got through 10 overs at a cost of 47 runs, part-timer Raina six for 36, and Jadeja the best of the bunch with two for 31 from nine.
Morkel gamely walked out with some 75 needed from the final 43 balls to keep Ryan McLaren company at the end, but it was only realistically an effort to minimise the margin of defeat. They whittled that down to just 26 runs, with Morkel dismissed from the final ball. McLaren finished not out on 71 off 61 balls, having given India something to think about on a day that otherwise went pretty much according to plan for the 2011 World Cup winners.
© Cricket World 2013
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