Passing the SA test with flying colours

South Africa’s run chase never really took off, hamstrung by some fine bowling from India. “We were just outplayed today,” said skipper de Villiers following his team’s 130-run rout. By Shreedutta Chidananda.

India registered a second straight win in the World Cup with a thumping 130-run defeat of South Africa at the MCG. Few would have predicted such a comprehensive win, if at all. Shikhar Dhawan slammed a 146-ball 137 to guide India to 307. South Africa then sank to 177 all out in 40.2 overs.

The run chase never really took off, hamstrung by some fine bowling from India. Umesh Yadav, not always renown for being accurate, held his line well, bothering Quinton de Kock from the very beginning. Mohammed Shami and Mohit Sharma made good use of the short ball. The latter got rid of Hashim Amla that way; the batsman had seemed tortured at the wicket and he hooked a bouncer to be held at fine-leg.

De Kock was perhaps asked to accelerate from the outset and he handed a tame catch to mid-off.

Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers then tried to rebuild the innings, adding 68 for the third wicket but the latter’s run out, via a throw from Mohit in the deep, effectively ended South Africa’s challenge.

David Miller was run out a little later, courtesy Umesh Yadav’s effort from the outfield. “Just not our day, I’d say,” de Villiers said later. “It’s difficult to put it down to exactly where we went wrong. Quite a few areas, where we just didn’t play as well as we wanted to.

“Started pretty slow with the ball in hand. It was difficult to make breakthroughs throughout the day, and at the end of the day, I thought it was probably a 275, 280-par kind of wicket. We actually did well to keep it down to 307 and I thought we had a chance halfway through the game but unfortunately just lost our way completely with the bat in hand. Two run-outs, absolutely unacceptable in the top six; just can’t afford those kind of things. Other than that, we were just outplayed today.”

India slowly tightened the noose through the middle overs, adding to the pressure on South Africa. Ravindra Jadeja and R. Ashwin were economical as the batting crumbled. The two rushed through their overs, giving the opponent little time to regroup or think.

Earlier, Dhawan’s century was the overarching story of the Indian innings. Dhoni batted first on winning the toss and after Rohit Sharma’s early dismissal, India rebuilt. Virat Kohli and Dhawan built a vital partnership of 127 for the second wicket. They were cautious at first but Dhawan exploded once he had his eye in. Ajinkya Rahane and he put South Africa to the sword, adding 125 runs off only 100 balls.

Dhawan was eventually dismissed for 137, beating his previous best of 119. “He batted really well. He was putting in an effort in the net sessions. A lot of times people talk about form, but form is just a matter of 15-20 minutes, and maybe it was something that he spent in the last game. When the big shots were there to play, he did play them. And he was also rotating the strike. He made sure that once he got his hundred he was still there at the crease, so it was easier for the other batsmen,” Dhoni said later of Dhawan.

It was Dhawan’s seventh century in ODIs, and following on the back of the half-century against Pakistan, it signalled the opener’s return to form.

Rahane was spectacular in his stroke-play too, being especially harsh on Wayne Parnell. Parnell was clearly the weak link in the South African bowling group. It didn’t help that Vernon Philander injured his hamstring and could bowl no more than four overs.

“Having back-to-back wins and especially the kind of wins that we have had in the last two games (is satisfying),” Dhoni said. “Getting 300 runs was fantastic.

It was definitely a par plus score on this wicket, and when we turned up with the ball, I think we bowled in the right areas and we made it tough for the opposition to score.”

A massive crowd of 86,876 turned out, more than the attendance for the opening day’s game between Australia and England. Dhoni later felt the crowd — at least 80% of it Indian — was a factor in the result while de Villiers denied that his men had been overawed by the occasion.