South Africa outplayed India as they chased down India’s moderate 297, at the end effortlessly to register a three wicket win. In a match that saw India squander a stupendous start to fall at least 50 runs short of their potential total which was laid by its top order batsmen – Sachin Tendulkar (111), Sehwag (73) and Ghambir (69). At the end, South Africa lived down their ‘chokers’ tag to reach a convincing win, scoring 300 for 7 in 49.4 overs.
At one point, India looked set to reach 350 comfortably on a near-perfect batting strip. But all of India’s batsmen appeared to think batting was as easy as Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag made it look. South Africa took India’s last nine wickets for just 29 runs on Saturday to restrict the host nation to a total of 296. Dale Steyn took a limited-overs career-best 5-50 as India collapsed from 267-1 to 296 all out in 48.4 overs.
Contrary to that, for South Africa, it was Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis, who involved in a steady partnership of 86 in 18.5 overs after captain Graeme Smith fell to India’s Zaheer Khan. He was caught by Sachin Tendulkar for a scratchy 16 off 29 balls. Amla made a polished 61 off 72 balls before falling to a brilliant catch by MS Dhoni off Hartbhajan Singh.
Kallis put on 46 with AB De Villiers before being run out by a Harbhajan Singh throw and a brilliant Dhoni collection, for 69 off 88 balls, leaving South Africa 173 for 3.
With JP Duminy joining the aggressive De Villiers, the scoring rate picked up from under 5 to nearer to the required rate of just under 6. De Villiers, despite having to take a runner, midway in his innings, continued on his merry way as South Africa took the Powerplay. He fell on a powerful 52 off 39 balls with 6 fours and a six, caught in the deep by Virat Kohli off Harbhajan. JP Duminy fell not long after, stumped off a fumble by Dhoni, with Harbhajan again the bowler. Duminy made 23 off 20 balls with 2 fours and a six.
Faf Du Plessis hit Yuvraj Singh for a six to make things tighter as wicketkeeper Morne Van Wyk joined him in the middle. Van Wyk did not stay too long and was LBW to Munaf Patel in the 44th over for 5 off 5 balls.
Johan Botha came in and played a superb cameo of 23 off 15 balls, with 2 fours and a six before falling to a superb catch by substitute Suresh Raina off Munaf Patel (2 for 64 off 10 overs), whose last over cost 14, but got the wicket of Botha as the match edged towards a tight finish.
Zaheer Khan (1 for 43 off 10 overs) came on for the 49th over with South Africa needing 17 off two overs as Robin Peterson came in. Despite missing Peterson’s run out, Zaheer conceded just 4 runs and left Ashish Nehra to defend 13 off the last over.
Peterson inside-edged for a boundary off the first ball of the last over and followed it up with a six over long on. The next ball went for two, tying the scores and the next ball was driven through mid off as the Proteas won in style. Du Plessis was unbeaten on 25 off 23 balls and Peterson on a brilliant 18 off 7 balls with 2 fours and a six.
Though with this defeat neither India’s hopes to top the table or qualifying for quarters not tarnished, yet Dhoni’s poor captaincy disappointed country’s millions of cricket lovers. If he faltered in shuffling his batsmen while his team was cruising well to set a big total (350 plus), then his decision to ask Ashish Nehra to bowl last over, perhaps the biggest blunder that he had committed so for in the tournament. Nehra, in fact though an experienced bowlers, looked off-color today like his captain and proved quite expensive. Instead, he could have asked Harbhajan, who had a magnificent spell picking up three crucial wickets in his nine overs, to bowl the last over.
Will Dhoni and Nehra learn a lesson or two from this match?