Shikhar Dhawan's ton guides India to 307/7 against Proteas
Melbourne, Feb 22 - It was a good toss to win as a marvellous 137 by Shikhar Dhawan guided India to a strong 307/7 in their 50 overs against South Africa in a World Cup Pool B clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) here on Sunday.
Dhawan's ton, his seventh in One-Day Internationals (ODIs), is now his highest ODI score. It is also the highest ever World Cup score against the Proteas, surpassing former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming's unbeaten 134 scored in 2003.
The defending champions received a huge jolt when opener Rohit Sharma (0) was run out by a direct hit from South African skipper AB de Villiers in only the third over.
However, thereon Dhawan and vice-captain Virat Kohli (46) combined well to put up a 127-run second-wicket partnership. The duo were extremely cautious after Rohit's wicket offered a very slow start to India.
Backed by some excellent fielding, South African pacers restricted India quite easily in the powerplay, because of which India were only 10/1 at the end of the fifth over.
With lethal pacer Dale Steyn (1/55) steaming in from one end, Dhawan started targeting other bowlers.
Both batsmen played the ball to its credit and kept on building the innings. The left-handed Dhawan took on the charge and played the anchor's innings in the presence of Kohli, which does not happen too often these days.
A fantastic square cut brought up Dhawan's half-century. But he was immediately given a reprieve when he was dropped by a flying Hashim Amla at backward point in the 20th over.
Though it was a difficult chance, Dhawan's wicket could have turned the match in favour of the Proteas.
Meanwhile, Kohli got out while trying to pull a short ball off Imran Tahir (1/48) at short mid-wicket. The 26-year-old, who scored a match-winning 107 against Pakistan last Sunday, was livid with himself.
However, Ajinkya Rahane (79) ensured that India did not suffer due to that wicket. His knock of 79 from 60 deliveries was studded with seven boundaries and three sixes over the huge MCG boundary.
Both -- Dhawan and Rahane -- upped the ante in the batting powerplay from the 36th over to provide a brilliant platform for India to post a big total. The duo scored all over the park and South African bowlers appeared hapless.
In the process, Dhawan notched up his century in 122 balls while Rahane brought up his ninth ODI half-century. The run-flow continued as Rahane and Dhawan upped the ante following the latter's century.
The 29-year-old from Delhi hit 16 boundaries and two sixes in his 146-ball knock. Even Steyn, regarded as the world's best pacer, was hit for sixes!
However, from a strong position of 261/2 in the 44th over, India finished poorly as they lost five wickets in the last six overs. Three consecutive boundaries by skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni helped India push the score but with several wickets in hand, a 320-plus score looked on the cards.
Meanwhile, for statistics freaks, India have never lost a World Cup match after scoring 300 or more while South Africa have won all three previous Cup meetings against India.
Rohit Sharma run out (de Villiers) 0
Shikhar Dhawan c Amla b Parnell 137
Virat Kohli c du Plessis b Imran Tahir 46
Ajinkya Rahane lbw b Steyn 79
Suresh Raina c sub (Rossouw) b Morkel 6
Mahendra Singh Dhoni c de Kock b Morkel 18
Ravindra Jadeja run out (de Villiers) 2
Ravichandran Ashwin not out 5
Mohammed Shami not out 4
Extras (lb 2, w 6, nb 2) 10
Total (seven wickets in 50 overs) 307
Fall of wickets: 1-9 (Sharma, 2.5 overs), 2-136 (Kohli, 27.1), 3-261 (Dhawan, 43.4), 4-269 (Raina, 44.5), 5-278 (Rahane, 45.6), 6-284 (Jadeja, 47.2), 7-302 (Dhoni, 48.5)
Dale Steyn 10-1-55-1
Vernon Philander 4-1-19-0
JP Duminy 7-0-39-0
Morne Morkel 10-0-59-2
Imran Tahir 10-0-48-1
Wayne Parnell 9-0-85-1
Toss: India chose to bat
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Richard Kettleborough (England)
TV umpire: Steve Davis (Australia)
Match referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand)
Reserve umpire: Joel Wilson (West Indies)