MELBOURNE: Shikhar Dhawan smashed a rollicking 137 as India rode on a clinical display to break their World Cup jinx against South Africa with an emphatic 130-run victory in a Group B match on Sunday.
Dhawan’s career-best 137 propelled India to a comfortable 307 for seven before the bowlers performed brilliantly to bundle out the Proteas for 177 in 40.2 overs in what turned out to be a rather lopsided contest at the packed Melbourne Cricket Ground. This was India’s maiden World Cup win against South Africa after having lost the clashes in 1992, 1999 and 2011. With two wins from as many matches, India now have a very good chance of qualifying for the quarterfinals as group leaders.
It was yet another commendable show by the Indians, who came into the tournament with a string of poor results in the tri-series preceding the mega event. Mohit Sharma (2/31 in 7 overs), Ravichandran Ashwin (3/41 in 10 overs) and Mohammed Shami (2/30 in 8 overs) kept the opposition batsmen under tight leash for better part of the innings.
The bowling unit fired in unison as South Africa never recovered once skipper A B de Villiers (30) fell short of his crease with Mohit’s accurate throw on top of the stumps sending the destructive player back in the pavilion. De Villiers and Du Plessis were going strong at one stage adding 68 runs for the third wicket as South Africa reached 108 for two before the skipper got run out.
Du Plessis (55) tried his best to stem the rot but once he mistimed a pull-shot off Mohit to Dhawan at covers, it was just a mere formality for the ‘Men in Blue’, who hardly put a foot wrong in front of the 86,786 crowd of which at least 75,000 were Indian supporters. With Sachin Tendulkar cheering them from the stands, it was an electric atmosphere at the MCG as Dhoni’s men cantered home in style. The Indian dressing room erupted in joy and the players hugged each other after last man standing Imran Tahir was trapped LBW by Ravindra Jadeja.
Earlier, Dhawan bludgeoned his way to a career-best knock as India posted a commendable 307 for seven against the title contenders. Dhawan’s 137 off 146 balls coupled with Ajinkya Rahane’s 60-ball 79 set the platform for a commendable total despite yet another mini-collapse at the death when the winners lost five wickets for 46 runs in the last 6.3 overs.
En route his seventh ODI ton, that had 16 boundaries and two sixes, Dhawan earned the distinction of achieving the highest score by any batsman in a World Cup game against South Africa. The Delhi left-hander’s love affair with South African bowling continued as this is his second ODI hundred against the Proteas in successive ICC tournaments, after having scored one back in 2013 in a Champions Trophy game in Cardiff.