Before the India – South Africa match got under way at Melbourne not many had expected that India in the end would manage to win convincingly. India of course had a jinx to break against the Proteas. They had not beaten them at their three previous meetings. So for MSD and his men the encounter against the Proteas was a challenge.
After winning the toss. Mahendra Singh Dhoni opted to bat first. And when Rohit Sharma was run- out by a absolutely brilliant throw by South African skipper A B De Villiers for 0 in the 3rd over, Dhoni’s move to bat first appeared to have backfired. But cometh the man and come the hour . Opener Shikhar Dhawan and deputy Virat Kohli got together and put on splendid 127 run partnership. Dhawan was sensational hitting shots all-around the ground. He cut, pulled, drove, slashed, came down and jabbed his way to scintillating 137 of 148 balls. A power packed hundred That he was out o f form for most part of the Australia tour seems to be history now.
Virat Kohli was in sublime touch too. The vice- captain batting in his number three position once again played a crucial knock . Kohli’s 46 off 60 balls was fine effort. And how much Kohli values his wickets these days could be judged by his reaction after his rather soft dismissal.
Dhawan’s attacking innings and his partnership with Kohli gave India the momentum. And the move to send Ajinkya Rahane ahead of Suresh Raina was a superb move. Rahane is superb player, has the technique and the temperament and yes also the shots. And he has shown in recent times that apart from Kohli, he is the another star in the batting line- up. Rahane was simply brilliant . He was positive and aggressive and his knock of 79 off 60 balls took the game away from the Proteas. India lost wickets towards the end in an effort to lift the total. But the target of 307 / 7 was tough one for the South Africans.
The South African dropped a few chances and their bowlers went for runs. The likes of Dale Steyn ( 1/55 off 10 ), Wayne Parnell 1 for 85 in 9 overs,, Morne Morkel (2/59 off 10) , Imran Tahir ( 1 48 off 10) leaked runs and it cost them heavily in the end.
Chasing a stiff target was not easy and the Proteas were shaky from the startQuinton de Kock failed for the first time against India, having hit three consecutive centuries when India toured South Africa last year. He was smartly taken by a forward-diving Kohli at mid-off for 7.
Hashim Amla (22) looked to have pulled Mohit Sharma only to be caught by Mohammad Shami at the square boundary. That brought the skipper De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis together and it seemed they were on their way to build a solid platform for a cracking finish to the game. But their partnership of 68 met an unfortunate end as Mohit and Dhoni combined to run out the dangerous SA skipper for 30. SA were 108 for 2 at that point. De Villiers run- out sealed the game for the Proteas.
The Proteas lost their last nine wickets for 69 runs and it was only Du Plessis’ 55 stood among the ruins. India’s effort in the field was once again impressive , players diving around to save that extra run and effecting two run outs – David Miller being the other. The Proteas found the asking rate and repeated fall of wickets too much and crashed to 177 all – out. Ashwin bowled miserly to take 3 / 41 off 10, Mohammed Shami 2/30 off 8 overs,Mohit Sharma 2/ 31 off 7 overs were the stars.
First crushing Pakistan by 76 and now a thumping 130 run over South Africa. India’s World Cup defence though a long way to go is clearly on track .