Rohit Sharma struck a patient century to guide India to a six-wicket win over South Africa in their campaign opener at the ICC World Cup, in Southampton. Curbing his attacking instinct, Sharma played a watchful innings of 122* off 144 balls, with 13 fours and two sixes.
Chasing 228 to win, India were never in trouble as Sharma held up one end after his fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan was caught behind off Kagiso Rabada for eight. Sharma was helped by some sloppy fielding by the South Africans, who dropped him on one and 107. He capitalised on the reprieves to put together useful partnerships with skipper Virat Kohli (18), K.L. Rahul (26) and M.S. Dhoni (34), to see India through in 47.3 overs. Hardik Pandya (15 off 7 balls) hit the winning runs.
In the absence of the injured duo of Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi, it was left to Rabada to try and make a match out of it with early breakthroughs. The young pacer responded well taking 2/39 off his 10 overs but he did not get enough support from the other end, especially from spinners Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi, both of who went wicketless.
This was in contrast to India’s bowling card, where wrist-spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav returned figures of 4/51 and 1/46 respectively.
But it was pacer Jasprit Bumrah who did the damage early on with a two-wicket burst after South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis won the toss and elected to bat. Bumrah had openers Hashim Amla (6) and Quinton de Kock (10) caught behind the stumps.
Du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen (22) tried to rebuild the innings with a 54-run partnership but leg-spinner Chahal accounted for both. Though Yadav had only one wicket to show for his efforts, the spin-duo bowled well in the slog overs keeping the South African batsmen on a tight leash.
At 158/7, Indian would have fancied their chances of bowling South Africa out for a score below 200. But India’s inability to dismiss the tail came to the fore yet again as a 66-run partnership between Chris Morris and Rabada ensured the Proteas set a respectable target for the Indians to chase.
South Africa have now lost all their three games so far. They will be up against the West Indies on June 10 after a five-day break. India will next play Australia on June 9.