India smash South AfricaManan Shah |
The equation for both sides was simple: India needed to win to go through to the semi finals, while South Africa needed either a win or a loss by a small margin to advance. South Africa were clearly the favorites, both because they had home advantage and because of their recent performances in the limited overs format.
India won the toss and chose to bat, and got off to a great start with Gambhir and Sehwag both looking positive. But disaster struck in the 5th over as India lost two quick wickets to Pollock. First it was Gambhir who struck one straight up in the air and into Graeme Smith’s waiting hands. Just two balls later, Karthik lost his wicket, this time the ball going straight to Albie Morkel. South Africa weren’t done yet, as with the very first ball of the next over, Ntini got Sehwag to edge one to Boucher and India were in disarray at 33/3 after losing three wickets in the space of four balls.
Uthappa and Sharma started circumspect and tried to build a partnership, but Morne Morkel got Uthappa in the eleventh over with the score on 61/4. At this point India had a terrible run rate, and had few wickets left to try to accelerate. However, Dhoni came in and started playing a responsible innings and along with Sharma at the other end, built a good partnership. Sharma especially picked up the pace with great stroke play and quick running between the wickets. Dhoni was run out in the last over trying to scamper for a second, but India had recovered to post a competitive – though far from safe – total of 153.
South Africa bats deep, and if India had any chance to win, they would need to capitalize on the helpful conditions and get wickets quickly. The start wasn’t very positive for India as Sreesanth started off with absolute rubbish over which conceded eleven runs. However, RP Singh was up to the task as he struck with his very first ball to remove the dangerous Gibbs. He continued the excellent bowling and with the fourth ball of the over, removed Graeme Smith when Dinesh Karthik took a fantastic diving catch.
Sreesanth joined the party in the next over as he trapped de Villiers plumb in front and at 12/3, it was now South Africa who were in trouble. India were not making it easy on themselves, as Sreesanth finished that over with four consecutive wides. The run rate though was in control and when Justin Kemp was run out in the sixth over when Sharma scored a direct hit, any hope of a South Africa win started fading away. It did not get better as Shaun Pollock was comprehensively bowled by RP Singh two balls later. South Africa were 31/5 and now all eyes were firmly on reaching 126, because if South Africa reached that total, it would push their run rate past New Zealand, taking them through to the next round.
South Africa were well on their way as Morkel and Boucher built up a solid partnership of 56 runs in quick time to put India back under pressure. However, Sreesanth struck again in the seventeenth over and bowled Boucher off an inside edge. Philadner was next, as he was stumped by Karthik off Harbhajan Singh and RP Singh bowled JA Morkel the very next over. With India giving up very few runs and South Africa consistently losing wickets, they ended up needing 17 runs off the final over to advance to the semi finals. It was not to be as Harbhajan Singh bowled a beautiful over to restrict South Africa to seven runs and got another stumping of van der Wrath to boot.
In the end, South Africa were knocked out of the tournament despite losing only one game, and India are through to face Australia on Saturday.
India 153-5 (20.0 overs)
RP Sharma 50*, MS Dhoni 45
SM Pollock 2/17
South Africa 116-9 (20.0 overs)
MV Boucher 36, JA Morkel 36
RP Singh 4/13, S Sreesanth 2/23, Harbhajan Singh 2/30
India win by 37 runs
Cricket Web Player of the Match: RP Singh