Rohit hundred takes India to 274/7 vs SA
Port Elizabeth, Feb 13 (PTI) Rohit Sharma ended his prolonged bad patch with a fine hundred as India scored a respectable 274 for 7 against South Africa in the fifth ODI, here today.
Despite Rohit's 115 off 126 balls and first on South African soil, India failed to consolidate during the final 10 overs as they scored only 55 runs after being comfortably placed at 219 for 4.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's inability to push the run-rate during death overs was once again exposed as he managed only 13 off 17 balls and the dot balls that he played only increased pressure on lower order. It was Bhuvneshwar Kumar's 19 off 20 balls that took India past 270-run mark.
The highlight of the Indian innings was Rohit's century -- which is his 17th overall and 15th as an opener. He is now third behind Sachin Tendulkar (45 out of 49) and Sourav Ganguly (19 out of 22) with number of centuries as opener.
After being criticised for his poor show in the series till date and a pitiable average of 11.45 in 12 ODIs (in SA) with a highest score of only 23, Rohit finally played an innings of substance that had 11 boundaries and four sixes.
He was shaky at times but the customary elegance was there to be seen as he stepped out to hit Kagiso Rabada over long on for a six.
Looking to overcome his poor run of form then, Rohit started off slowly against Morne Morkel (0/44 in 10 overs) and Kagiso Rabada (1/58 in 9 overs), with the former bowling out two maiden overs.
In-form Shikhar Dhawan however stroked his way to 34 off 23 balls, with eight boundaries.
India raced off the blocks as the opening duo put on 48 in just 7.2 overs. Dhawan was looking good for many more, but Rabada tied him up with some short stuff. In response, the left-hander only managed to hole out straight to deep square leg.
Rohit though had found his touch with a pulled six off Rabada in the sixth over. He was joined in the middle by Virat Kohli (36 off 54 balls, 2 fours), who played an uncharacteristic innings belying his rich form.
The skipper got off to a sluggish start and was never at ease in rotating the strike, something he is very adept at. The runs just didn’t flow easily on what was turning out to be a slower track than anticipated.
Surprisingly enough, Sharma was in better touch at the other end as he hit another three sixes off Lungi Ngidi (4-51), JP Duminy (0-29) and Tabraiz Shamsi (0-48).
The run-rate had been above 6.5/over when Kohli came to the crease, and South Africa made some clever bowling changes to squeeze it down to 5.9/over by the time their partnership ended.
The duo added 105 runs for the second wicket. In doing so, they took India across 100 in the 18th over whilst Sharma reached his half-century off 50 balls.
Things were looking well set when they were involved in a huge mix-up. In the 26th over, Kohli set off for a quick single with Rohit sending him back but the skipper was run-out via a direct throw from Duminy at backward point.
Six overs later, there was another bad mix-up, this time involving Rohit and Ajinkya Rahane (8). The latter dabbed the ball to mid-on and set off for a run, but his partner was busy watching the ball and sent the batsman back, who was caught short of his ground.
Rohit then took the responsibility of anchoring the innings on himself and put on 60 runs with Shreyas Iyer (30) for the fourth wicket. In doing so, they took India past 200 in the 36th over while Sharma reached his milestone off 107 balls.
He had enjoyed a life on 96 when Shamsi dropped a sitter at long on off Rabada in the 34th over.
But the opener, who is used to accelerating after reaching the three-figure mark, didn’t do so this time around. Perhaps he looked to stay in the middle till the end, but failed to do so, as he was caught behind off Ngidi in the 43rd over.
It became a quick triple blow from the young pacer. He dismissed Hardik Pandya (0) first ball, caught behind, and four balls later, Iyer too was caught behind. In all, he picked up three wickets in the space of six balls as India were reduced to 238/6 in the 45th over.
Pandya now has only scored 52 runs in nine innings since his 93 in the first innings of the Cape Town Test in the second week of January.
Meanwhile, India struggled to get going in the death overs. Dhoni was dismissed when skipper Aiden Markram took a splendid catch going forward at mid-off. Ngidi had picked up his fourth wicket and returned his best ODI figures.
Dhoni added 27 runs with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (19 not out) for the 7th wicket. India only managed 55 runs and lost 4 wickets in the last 10 overs, as the Proteas restricted them below 300 (despite a good start) for a second time running