Big defeat against Australia works against India as Pakistan joins Australia in semi-finals from Group 2
India crashed out of the ICC World Twenty20 2012 on Tuesday night, making its exit at the Super Eights for the third consecutive edition, despite a one-run victory over South Africa. India needed to win by a 31-run margin to edge out Pakistan on net run rate and make the semi-finals as the second team from the group, behind Australia.
Its final margin of victory merely facilitated Pakistan’s entry into the last four. Pakistan will now face Sri Lanka, the host nation, in the first semi-final on Thursday, while Australia will take on the West Indies in Friday’s second semi-final. India rode on a late flurry from Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni to post 152 for 6. In reply, South Africa was bowled out for 151 with one ball to spare.
India’s task had been made enormously difficult by Pakistan’s huge win over Australia earlier in the day. That 32-run victory meant India had to win by a margin of 31 runs, or with four overs to spare if it was chasing, a tall order against a South African side, even if it had already been eliminated by the previous result.
AB de Villiers’s decision to stick India in meant the batsmen were always going to find it tough to gauge what kind of total the bowlers would require; not knowing whether to stick or twist, India lost three wickets in quick time, and with that evaporated any outside chance of posting a massive total on a wearing surface.
India’s eventual total wasn’t to be scoffed at, but it meant South Africa had to be restricted to 121 or less. Armed with a nothing-to-lose attitude and a rejigged batting order, South Africa provided India early hope when Zaheer Khan got rid of Hashim Amla without a run on the board, and Irfan Pathan accounted for Jacques Kallis, pushed up to open the batting, in the fourth over.
At 16 for 2, South Africa was there for the taking, but India had bargained without Francois du Plessis, who replaced the completely out of sorts Richard Levi. De Villiers, finally promoting himself to No. 3, played a few early big shots but then sat back as du Plessis took the fight to India with brilliant footwork and great timing.
As if determined to show up the folly of not playing him in earlier matches, du Plessis batted without a care in the world, though there was nothing reckless or premeditated about his stroke-play. He also ran brilliantly between the wickets, first with de Villiers and then alongside JP Duminy in a fourth-wicket partnership that broke Indian hearts.
Dhoni missed a trick or two. After Yuvraj Singh had got rid of de Villiers with his first delivery, he strangely brought on Rohit Sharma while R Ashwin cooled his heels in the outfield. India needed wickets at that stage; Rohit had one wicket in his previous 31 matches at an economy of 10, and it was no surprise to see du Plessis pick him off for 13 in that over as the momentum shifted perceptibly.
Having stuck to the same XI that did so brilliantly against Pakistan and left Harbhajan Singh out, India didn’t have the spinning resources that Pakistan had earlier in the evening. Du Plessis’s kept South Africa in the hunt with his first Twenty20 International half-century, though his team-mates couldn’t quite finish off what he had started.
By the time he was dismissed, caught at long-off off Yuvraj, the man of the match, he had smashed 65 off 38, and added 49 in 39 balls with Duminy. There was some artificial excitement as Duminy was fifth man out on 107 and India believed it had fought its way back when Ashwin forced Robin Peterson to find point with a switch hit at 109. However, he had overstepped and with that went any outside chance of India pulling off a miracle.
India’s innings never really took off at any stage, the regular loss of wickets contributing to stuttering momentum. Virat Kohli’s sixth-ball dismissal, caught behind off his glove not longer after Gautam Gambhir had been castled by Morne Morkel trying to make room and drive on the up, was a big setback for a team that has come to depend so heavily on its prolific No. 3.
Virender Sehwag threw his bat around but was bowled playing an agricultural hoick one ball after depositing Peterson over long-on, and Rohit struggled to get past second gear, tied down by the hostility of South Africa’s pace and the accuracy of its spin attack.
Yuvraj, by contrast, batted quite superbly, his timing an absolute delight as he caressed Johan Botha over long-off and slog-swept Peterson over mid-wicket. Just as he promised to carry on, Morkel produced a peach of a yorker to send him back. India’s innings had hit another roadblock.
Raina hit out boldly, driving Morkel over cover for a huge six and kept the board ticking over with fours all around the park. Even so, India looked headed for a total only in the mid-130s until Dhoni arrived, and exploded in a flurry of strokes.
Dale Steyn had been outstanding in his first spell, 2-1-5-0, but Dhoni took him apart towards the end, including one flat-batted four that only just cleared the bowler’s head because he ducked in time. It was sensational ball-striking as the sixth-wicket pair put on 40, in just four overs. Not enough though; not for qualification, even if just about for victory.