KOLKATA: Sometimes you play to your strength and sometimes you play on your opponents’ weakness. India skipper Rohit Sharma perhaps opted for the latter against South Africa at the Eden Gardens here on Sunday.
Batting first in this World Cup, South Africa had scores of 428, 311, 399, 382 and 357. And each time, they won by more than 100 runs.But while chasing, they lost to Netherlands and narrowly escaped with a one-wicket win against Pakistan.
But whatever might be the rationale behind the call, at the end of the day, the Indian juggernaut kept rolling as the Men in Blue thrashed South Africa by 243 runs to make it eight-out-of-eight wins in this ICC ODI World Cup.
The packed Eden got all that it had wished for as the fans not only enjoyed another dominating India win but also became part of history witnessing Virat Kohli equalling Sachin Tendulkar‘s 49th ODI hundred, the highest in this format, on his 35th birthday.
Cricket World Cup 2023: India crush South Africa by 243 runs, extend winning streak to eight matches in ODI World Cup
The Indian bowlers then turned this potential blockbuster into a one-sided affair by bowling out South Africa for 83 only in 27.1 overs.
On a tricky pitch where shot-making was not easy, Kohli showed character to stay till the end remaining undefeated on 101 to take India to 326 for five. He even foresaw the result after the first innings when he stated, “According to me, the total is well above par.”
Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja all picked up wickets in their first overs as South Africa lost the plot early after being reduced to 40 for five in the 14th over. Only on Saturday, India head coach Rahul Dravid had said, “because of how good our seamers have been and how fantastic it has been to watch them upfront, the performances of people like Jaddu (Jadeja) and Kuldeep (Yadav) have probably gone slightly unnoticed.”
Jadeja once again bowled that nagging wicket-to-wicket line that saw him return with five for 33 in his nine overs. Kuldeep finished with two for seven in his 5.1 overs that included one maiden too.
While Shami picked two for 18, Siraj got one for 11.
In contrast, South Africa bowlers were way below average. Except Keshav Maharaj, none of the others could create any impact. While South Africa’s highest wicket-taker in this World Cup, left-arm pacer Marco Jansen bowled all over the place, Tabraiz Shamsi, coming in place of Gerald Coetzee, never got his line right straying mostly down the leg.
The situation also exposed the fact that the Proteas lacked a meaningful sixth bowler. South Africa were guilty of bowling 22 wides and two no balls thereby giving India the luxury of playing four extra overs.
Earlier, the Indian innings was orchestrated by Kohli while Shreyas Iyer hit his second successive half-century to establish his credentials for a permanent spot in the playing XI. The Kolkata Knight Riders skipper was happy to be back at ‘home’ as he hit an 87-ball 77 with the help of seven fours and two sixes.
After Rohit and Gill were off to a flying start, Iyer provided steam to the innings by being involved in a 134-run third-wicket stand with Kohli that took India to a position of strength.