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Dhawan stars as India beats South Africa by 26 runs

India beats South Africa as contributions from lower-order batsmen and bowling unit complement Shikhar Dhawan’s magnificent 114

Dhawan stars as India beats South Africa by 26 runs - Cricket News
Shikhar Dhawan of India celebrates after scoring his maiden ODI century.
A magnificent hundred from Shikhar Dhawan was the highlight as India started its Champions Trophy campaign with a 26-run victory over South Africa, one of the pre-tournament favourites. The new-look opening partnership of Dhawan and Rohit Sharma gave India a 127-run start, and a couple of late cameos boosted it to a score that proved beyond South Africa despite the best efforts of Robin Peterson, AB de Villiers and Ryan McLaren.
 
Even without Dale Steyn in the opposition ranks, India started circumspectly after being asked to bat in slightly overcast conditions. The first five overs produced just 15, and it was only when Rohit smashed Lonwabo Tsotsobe over deep cover for six that the sizeable contingent of Indian fans started to make themselves heard. They were rarely quiet thereafter.
 
South Africa’s tactics seemed to be based on the short ball, but aside from Morne Morkel, who bowled a tidy four-over spell for just eight runs, it lacked the personnel to execute the plan. Rohit brutalised short deliveries at little over medium pace, and Dhawan too played the pull effectively when asked to.
 
Rohit’s drives through the off side were often majestic, while Dhawan’s two-step-and-loft approach to pace and spin alike brought back memories of Sourav Ganguly’s halcyon years. No matter where de Villiers turned, the runs wouldn’t stop, as India scored 96 in the first 15 overs.
 
The partnership came at a run a ball before Rohit went for one pull too many against McLaren. That proved to be no more than a blip though as Dhawan and Virat Kohli stroked and thumped 83 off just 78 balls. Kohli wasn’t at his fluent best, and sensibly left it to Dhawan to inflict maximum damage. He did so as well, and two consecutive fours off the hapless Rory Kleinveldt took him to an 80-ball hundred.
 
South Africa’s woes were exacerbated when Morkel, its best bowler, went off with a quadriceps strain, and it was ironic that its best period with the ball followed his exit. Kohli miscued Tsotsobe to deep midwicket, Dhawan’s dazzling 114 ended with a misdirected sweep and Dinesh Karthik found de Villiers’s gloves with an attempted ramp shot. When Suresh Raina departed, fending another short ball from McLaren, South Africa might have glimpsed a Nagpur 2011-type comeback.
 
Instead, MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja added 31 from 28 balls, before a late flurry of strokes from the impressive Jadeja – booed by Indian fans at Lord’s four years ago – took him to an unbeaten 47 from just 29 balls. India’s 331 for 7 was also the highest ODI score at the Swalec Stadium in Cardiff.
 
South Africa knew that it had to come out blazing, and it did, but two quick wickets soon set them back. Colin Ingram edged Bhuvneshwar Kumar to second slip, while Hashim Amla inside-edged Umesh Yadav behind after having taken him for three fours in the same over.
 
Sending Robin Peterson as pinch-hitter at No. 3 would have been classed as a gamble, but it paid off spectacularly as the Indian bowlers were not allowed to settle down. Both Bhuvneshwar and Yadav came in for heavy punishment, and Ishant Sharma wasn’t spared either when he came on.
 
Peterson was equally at ease working the ball through midwicket and cover, while de Villiers punished India most in the arc between backward point and mid-off. By the end of the 15th over, South Africa had 114 on the board and was seemingly well on course.
 
The game changed with the introduction of spin. Jadeja and R Ashwin didn’t break through immediately, but the breathless run-rate came down and allowed India to regroup.
 
It still needed a moment of magic to swing things their way though. Peterson had made 68 when he clipped Ashwin to midwicket. The ball was struck firmly, but Jadeja dived full length to his left to stop, gather, assess and throw to Dhoni. Sent back by de Villiers, Peterson had no chance. The partnership was worth 124 in 124 balls.
 
Then came disaster, with three wickets falling for the addition of six runs. JP Duminy, the most economical bowler for his side earlier in the day, was trapped in front by Jadeja, while de Villiers made a hash of an attempted pull against Yadav to depart after a 71-ball 70. When David Miller was run out without facing a ball, the innings looked to be running aground.
 
But Faf du Plessis and McLaren capitalised on the batting Power Play to add 51 in just 28 balls, and there were frissons of alarm in the Indian camp until du Plessis’s attempt to hit Ishant out of the ground found Suresh Raina at mid-off.
 
Kleinveldt and Tsotsobe offered only token resistance and it was left to the injured Morkel to come out and give sterling support to the defiant McLaren, who took two fours and a six off an Ishant over on his way to an impressive 40-ball half-century. The game though was long gone. 

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