India vs South Africa was built up to be a thriller, considering the top two teams in the ODI Rankings were head to head and a place in the Champions Trophy semi-finals was up for grabs. The match, though, ended up as a one-sided affair but did give us a few things to dwell upon.
India backed their strength
When Ravichandran Ashwin was picked for Umesh Yadav, eyebrows were raised. The in-form pacer was dropped when the consensus was that Hardik Pandya would bite the bullet. Yet India backed their strength. They won the toss and elected to bowl, one of their strengths, and went in with two spinners, one of their other strengths. The fifth bowler’s quota was expected to be completed by Pandya and a couple of part-time options – a long template under MS Dhoni’s captaincy. The moves did not disappoint.
South Africa wilted under pressure
When AB de Villiers started his innings, he looked in good touch. The South African openers had given the team a decent platform to build upon. Two tight overs from Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja made Faf du Plessis call de Villiers for an impossible single and the latter was caught short of the crease. Having withstood the pressure from the Indian bowlers, South Africa made a mockery of themselves when David Miller was run out five balls later. South Africa had got themselves in a mess from a position of strength. Indian bowlers then bowled with control and South Africa wilted under pressure. South Africa lost their last eight wickets for just 51 runs. 191 is all they got in a virtual quarterfinal. They misfired in a big match, again.
Virat Kohli was spot on with his tactics
The Indian captain is relatively young to ODI captaincy and with this being his first major tournament as captain, there were a few doubts. Those doubts were intensified after the defeat to Sri Lanka. Against South Africa though, he got it spot on. He was proactive in the field and led from the front. His bowlers never let the batsmen get away and whenever he needed wickets, he put his frontline bowlers on. Ashwin, Jadeja, Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar picked up wickets regularly. His field placements were excellent too.
Shikhar Dhawan raises his game in ICC tournaments
When Shikhar Dhawan announced himself at the 2013 Champions Trophy, India were excited about unravelling a big stage player. Four years on, Dhawan has enhanced his reputation. During his 83-ball 78, the Delhi opener created an impressive record. He overtook Sachin Tendulkar to become the fastest batsman to reach 1000 runs in ICC tournaments, in only 16 innings, compared to Tendulkar’s 18. Five hundreds, two at the 2013 Champions Trophy, two at the 2015 World Cup and one so far in this tournament. This tally includes four fifties too. The 31-year old has taken his level to a whole new dimension in the big tournaments.
South Africa failed to create pressure
To defend a total of 192, early wickets are a necessity. Though they got rid of Rohit Sharma with the score at just 23, South Africa failed to create pressure on Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan and India were allowed to bat on with a slow start. India negated Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel and then raised the tempo against the other bowlers. Virat Kohli’s 76 not out was one of his less glamorous innings but very important. And the fact that South Africa were not able to reduce India to a position where they could push for the match, India ran out as comfortable winners. South Africa ran out of ideas, both with the bat and the ball.