Hardly a solace

Yuvraj Singh’s all-round show helped India to a win.-AP

Once South Africa reached 122, the Indians understandably struggled to maintain their intensity and right under their noses, the contest nearly slipped away. The Morkels — Albie and Morne — hit a six each off Balaji’s last over when 14 were required but the seamer, however, castled the brothers and eked out a consolation win for India. By K.C. Vijaya Kumar.

An Indian victory and a Man of the Match award to comeback-man Yuvraj Singh are strong triggers to drum up music. Sadly when these two positive cues occurred, a ghastly silence lingered amidst the Indian ranks at Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium.

India’s one-run victory over South Africa meant nothing in the final analysis.

In a quagmire of its dipping net run-rates due to the massive defeat suffered earlier against Australia, India lost its way and crashed out of the ICC World Twenty20.

After its champion’s run in the tournament’s inaugural edition in 2007, India has failed to emulate that golden phase in the subsequent years, be it 2009, 2010 or now.

Ahead of its last Group II Super Eights match against South Africa, M. S. Dhoni’s men watched Pakistan stun Australia. That result further complicated India’s position and the only way forward was to defeat the Proteas by a 30-plus margin. It became a specific 31-run yardstick after India scored 152 for six once AB de Villiers won the toss and opted to chase.

India had to restrict South Africa to 121 or less but in a match that had two climaxes — the moment when the Proteas scored 122 and L. Balaji’s last over with his team hovering close to defeat — Dhoni’s men were destined to brood even as de Villers’ men finished with 151 from 19.5 overs.

Balaji celebrates the end of J.P. Duminy.-K.R. DEEPAK

The ‘Men in Blue’ lost their way both in the beginning and winding-down stages as the top-order failed and the South African tail clubbed eye-popping sixes. Somehow despite being deflated after watching the scoreboard flash — Pakistan qualify for the semifinals, Dhoni’s men managed to script a bitter-sweet victory.

Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Virender Sehwag fell in succession to leave India hobbling at 36 for three. Caught in the dilemma of having to score a huge total so that a hefty victory was eventually secured, the batsmen, notably Sehwag, played one shot too many and perished.

The rest of the line-up was forced to latch the door and at the same time jump across the fence! Yuvraj Singh’s regal sixes off Robin Peterson and Johan Botha, was a sight for the gods but his exit — bowled by a yorker from Morne Morkel — was an ace for the fast bowlers club. Suresh Raina (45, 34b, 5x4) then lent his weight, stung the spinners, punched Dale Steyn and Morkel and most importantly, stitched partnerships with Rohit Sharma and Dhoni that helped India inch past the 150-mark.

Feverish dreams of a whopping Indian win did crop up when Zaheer Khan dismissed Hashim Amla, Irfan Pathan scalped Jacques Kallis and Yuvraj’s golden arm accounted for de Villiers. However, in Faf du Plessis (65, 38b, 6x4, 2x6) South Africa had the man to spoil Indian’s party. The clean striker shrugged the pressure aside with big hits against Zaheer, Rohit and Irfan and with that the Proteas ensured that they will take India down too.

Once 122 were etched on the scoreboard, the Indians understandably struggled to maintain their intensity and right under their noses, the contest nearly slipped away. The Morkels — Albie and Morne — hit a six each off Balaji’s last over when 14 were required but the seamer, however, castled the brothers and eked out a consolation win for India.

Not the ideal finish for a team that would have dreamt big when it set foot in Sri Lanka, a fortnight back. “We lost just one match (against Australia),” pointed out Dhoni while the vagaries of cricket reared its head again.

THE SCORES

India: G. Gambhir b Morne 8, V. Sehwag b Peterson 17, V. Kohli c de Villiers b Kallis 2, R. Sharma lbw b Peterson 25, Yuvraj Singh b Morne 21, Suresh Raina (run out) 45, M. S. Dhoni (not out) 23. Extras: (lb-10, nb-1): 11. Total (for six wkts., in 20 overs): 152.

Fall of wickets: 1-23, 2-30, 3-36, 4-68, 5-112, 6-152.

South Africa bowling: Steyn 4-1-26-0, Morne 4-0-28-2, Kallis 3-0-24-1, Peterson 4-0-25-2, Botha 3-0-30-0, du Plessis 1-0-3-0, Duminy 1-0-6-0.

South Africa: H. Amla c Sehwag b Zaheer 0, J. Kallis c Rohit b Irfan 6, AB de Villiers b Yuvraj 13, F. du Plessis c Raina b Yuvraj 65, J. P. Duminy c Gambhir b Balaji 16, F. Behardien c Raina b Zaheer 13, R. Peterson b Zaheer 10, Albie Morkel b Balaji 10, J. Botha c Raina b Ashwin 8, D. Steyn (not out) 0, Morne Morkel b Balaji 6. Extras (lb-3, nb-1): 3. Total (in 19.5 overs): 151.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-16, 3-46, 4-95, 5-107, 6-127, 7-127, 8-138, 9-145.

India bowling: Zaheer 4-0-22-3, Irfan 3-0-26-1, Yuvraj 4-0-23-2, Rohit 1-0-13-0, Ashwin 4-0-27-1, Balaji 3.5-0-37-3.