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India falls short despite Dhawan heroics

Duminy and de Kock lead South Africa to 196/8 before its bowlers stop World T20 host with four runs in hand

13 March 2016 00:24 By Himanish Bhattacharjee, Mumbai

It is not usual for a cricket stadium to host a sell-out crowd for a warm-up match, but when the two teams involved in the contest happen to be among the top contenders for the ICC World Twenty20 2016 title, it is bound to create some sort of a buzz.

Knowing that none of the three group-stage matches scheduled for Mumbai feature India, and only good fortune will bring MS Dhoni's men to the city for the second semi-final, 32,000 people turned up to witness the warm-up contest between India and South Africa at Wankhede Stadium on Saturday (March 12), and what a contest it turned out to be.

The day began with loud chants of 'India, India!' and, by the end of the night, the crowd had gone berserk, when Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh took India close to chasing down the 197-run target, but fell short by just four runs. South Africa put up 196 for 8, while India ended on 192 for 3.



The idea of the warm-up game, of course, is to give everyone a chance, and Dhoni used almost every option he had in his kitty when India bowled, giving as many as seven of his bowlers, including Harbhajan Singh, Mohammed Shami and Pawan Negi – the ones who have not had a lot of match time of late – a chance to turn their arms over.

Choosing to bat, South Africa was on the money straightaway, with Quinton de Kock leading the way with a flurry of boundaries. Hashim Amla, who came into this match on the back of a fantastic 62-ball 97 against Australia in Cape Town, did not survive for too long, edging a Jasprit Bumrah delivery to Dhoni behind the stumps. Faf du Plessis followed suit soon after hitting three boundaries for his seven-ball 12.



But, from then on, it was the de Kock-JP Duminy show, with the duo smashing the ball around the park, and bringing up a 50-run partnership in under 14 minutes, before stretching that to a third-wicket stand of 77 off 49 deliveries. With the scoreboard reading 110 for 3 in 12 overs, despite de Kock having shown no signs of bother, the South African camp called him back to give the middle- and lower-order batsmen a chance to have a go.

David Miller came in next, and tonked a six and a four, and Rilee Rossouw did the same. But attempted big shots paved the way their exits, and David Wiese was sent back soon after too. It was the medium pace of Hardik Pandya that accounted for all three dismissals, as the bowler ended with figures of 3 for 36.

Duminy's 44-ball 67 took South Africa to 196 for 9 in 20 overs, leaving India with a very difficult task in hand.

Rohit Sharma, who had scored an unbeaten 98 against West Indies in the first warm-up game in Kolkata, looked in ominous touch once again, hitting Dale Steyn for a six and a four in the first over. But three balls later, Kyle Abbott trapped him leg before, and pin-drop silence took over the stadium. It didn't last for too long, though, as Virat Kohli came jogging out of the dugout, triggering a deafening roar across the venue.

Expectations are always high when Kohli is in the middle, but on this one rare occasion, he failed to deliver, edging a brute of a delivery from Steyn straight into de Kock's gloves.



Ajinkya Rahane played two glorious shots to the fence during his short stay at the crease, but it was the unbeaten 94-run stand between Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina that really shored up the chase.

Dhawan hit ten boundaries in his knock of 73 off 53 balls, looking in good shape and striking the ball cleanly, while Raina played the aggressor’s role, hitting three fours and two sixes in a 26-ball 41.

With 55 runs left to win, and four overs in hand, India called Raina and Dhawan back to the hut, sending Dhoni and Yuvraj out to take care of the remaining part of the chase.

The stage was set for the batsmen, who might have to deal with such a situation soon again, in the main draw of the competition.

Dhoni went on to smash 31 off 16 balls, hitting four fours and a massive six off Steyn that ended up in the second tier of the Garware Pavilion, while Yuvraj smashed 16 off eight, with a four and a six.

With 14 needed off the last over, it was always going to be a tough ask, but the batsmen did as much as they could, only to fall short by a very small margin in the end, and ending on 192 for 3.

Click here to view the full scorecard.