Virat Kohli and his men kicked off their World Cup with a six-wicket win over the Proteas having earlier restricted them to just 227-9 in their 50 overs.
It was Yuzvendra Chahal’s leg-spin which did the trick for India at Southampton with the 28-year-old wreaking havoc with four crucial wickets. The wrist-spinner had picked up 16 wickets in six matches when India thumped South Africa by 5-1 in an ODI series last year and he was in similar punishing mood at Southampton on Tuesday as he spun a web around the Proteas batsmen.
Here, we take a closer look at his excellent bowling display.
Runs conceded: 51
South Africa looked like they were back on track after the early loss of the openers with Rassie van der Dussen and Faf du Plessis forging a promising partnership. However, the introduction of Chahal into the bowling attack changed all that with the leg-spinner making an instant impact.
In just his second over, Chahal castled the stumps of both the set batsmen with subtle use of his variations. Coming back for a second spell, the leggie struck immediately by deceiving David Miller before he put India firmly on top by having Andile Phehlawukyo stumped by MS Dhoni.
Chahal was right on the money and barely took any time to settle down and find the right length and pace for the pitch. He had tormented the Proteas in the ODI series in South Africa last year and that is exactly what he did again at Southampton.
Chahal has always displayed remarkable game intelligence while bowling and he was one step ahead of South Africa’s batsmen on Wednesday. When Van der Dussen and Phehlukwayo signalled their intentions to attack him early, the leg-spinner adjusted his lengths at the last second to have the two batsmen bowled and stumped respectively.
Meanwhile, his variations were spot on as well with Faf du Plessis beaten all ends up by the perfect googly while David Miller was deceived by the flight.
Chahal barely bowled any bad deliveries in the first eight overs of his spell but he was guilty of being a little loose towards the end of his spell. He bowled a few half-trackers in his final two overs and was duly punished for two huge sixes by South Africa all-rounder Chris Morris.
Other than that, it was a near perfect bowling display from the leg-spinner.
VERDICT – 8.5/10
It was Chahal who was majorly responsible for South Africa’s sub-par batting effort on the day. The ability of India’s wrist spinners to pick wickets in the middle overs has been instrumental in several wins over the past two years and Wednesday was another perfect example of it.
With both Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav in wicket-taking form, India will fancy their chances of going all the way.
India started off their 2019 ICC World Cup campaign on the perfect note with Virat Kohli and his men notching up a clinical six-wicket win over South Africa at Southampton.
Chasing 228 for victory, India were made to toil before scampering across the finish line with 15 balls to spare as South Africa were left to rue a third straight defeat.
South Africa’s batting failed to click after skipper Faf du Plessis won the toss and elected to bat first. The Proteas could only muster 227-9 in their fifty overs and it took a 66-run stand for the eighth wicket between Chris Morris and Kagiso Rabada for the Proteas to ultimately get there.
Jasprit Bumrah gave India a roaring start with the new ball by removing South Africa openers Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla early before the wrist-spinners took control in the middle.
Yuvendra Chahal struck twice in his second over by sending back du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen before Kuldeep Yadav dismissed JP Duminy. Chahal returned to remove David Miller and Andile Phehlukwayo in quick succession to leave South Africa reeling at 158-7.
Morris (42) and Rabada helped save South Africa’s blushes and ensured that the side batted its full quota of 50 overs.
In response, India lost Shikhar Dhawan early with a charged up Rabada finding the left-hander’s outside edge. Skipper Virat Kohli (18) was looking good at the crease but he fell early as well after Quinton de Kock pulled off a stunning one-handed catch while diving to his right.
Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul put the chase back on track with an 85-run stand that was dominated by the former. Rabada returned to dismiss Rahul and the pressure was right back on India with the required rate going above 5.50.
However, Rohit was growing in confidence and he found excellent support from MS Dhoni at the other end as he marched towards a 23rd ODI century. Dhoni (34) skied a catch back to Morris with the finish line in sight but Rohit had no trouble in finishing off matters in the company of Hardik Pandya.
Proteas choke on wrist-spin once again
India’s wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep and Chahal were unstoppable when the team toured South Africa at the start of last year. They picked up 33 wickets between them in five matches as India handed the Proteas a 5-1 thrashing in the ODI series and they continued that domination on Wednesday at Southampton.
Five wickets were picked up the duo with Chahal accounting for four of them as South Africa’s vulnerability against spin came back to haunt them. For a team which has an excellent wrist-spinner in Imran Tahir, the Proteas are strangely inept when it comes to combating it. It has been a longstanding problem with the team and they had more than a year to fix their issues after being horribly exposed by the Indians.
That they still haven’t come to grips with wrist-spin is now proving to be costly at the World Cup.
While Yuzvendra Chahal’s superb spell had ensured that India were chasing a modest target, they were still made to work hard for their runs by the South African bowling attack led by Kagiso Rabada.
Dhawan and Kohli falling early put India in a precarious spot but Rohit Sharma was on hand to put the chase back on track after surviving a tricky period at the start. Despite being given several uncomfortable moments against the new ball by Rabada, Rohit quickly asserted himself on the match.
It wasn’t the easiest of pitches to bat on with the ball sometimes taking off from a good length but Rohit held his nerves with an assured display. As is the case with the opener, he always makes it big once he gets in and that is exactly what he did at Southampton as he brought up a magnificent 23rd ODI hundred and then carried his bat.
That it came after two poor outings in the warm-ups was also a big plus for Rohit for India.
Proteas lose three in a row for the first time in a World Cup
While they are yet to win a World Cup title, South Africa have always been formidable performers in the competition. They had previously never lost more than two matches in a row in the World Cup but that record came to an end on Wednesday with the loss to India.
They now face the prospect of having to win all of their six remaining games if they are to advance to the semi-final.
Pakistan batsman Asif Ali credited his family for convincing him to travel to England and play the World Cup after the tragic death of his infant daughter.
Asif had to leave the UK after the fifth ODI against England following the death of his 19-month-old daughter Dua Fatima from cancer – who was in the US – last month.
Asif was not in the initial World Cup team but forced his way into the final squad with two fifties against England in the five-match series.
But the bereavement was an extremely tough time for the 27-year-old and Asif said his wife and family helped him keep his senses during that period.
“I was informed of my daughter’s health during the Pakistan Super League in February,” Asif was quoted as saying by AFP.
“It was shocking and heart-breaking but my family stood by me in those difficult times and they eased it by convincing me that I should play for the country and they will take care of her.
“They told me ‘don’t waste a chance of playing for the country’ because only lucky ones get that chance. Whatever Allah did, it was for her betterment.”
Asif said he was happy to be among the runs during the series against England which Pakistan lost 4-0.
“I need to score quick runs in the final overs and you may have seen my game during the series where I got more overs to bat,” he said. “I got 20-25 overs and that’s why I scored two fifties. If you bat up the order then it’s relatively easy to hit out as you get settled.”
Pakistan made a poor start to the World Cup after being bundled out for 105 against the West Indies. But they bounced back in style against favourites England in Nottingham. Asif said it was a great sign for the men in green.
“Beating England was awesome,” said the lower order batsman. “England have a strong batting line-up, so the win was very good. We now have the momentum and we will take it with us in the next games.”