Cricket World Cup: Rohit Sharma’s 122* guides India to six-wicket win over South Africa at Southampton
Rohit Sharma's 23rd ODI hundred helped India chase South Africa's 227. © AFP

SOUTHAMPTON: India have opened their campaign at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 with an emphatic six-wicket win over South Africa at the Rose Bowl, underlining their tag as one of the tournament favourites.

In front of a landscape of blue fans packed into the stands, Virat Kohli‘s team found their leaders in Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal with the ball to limit South Africa to 227/9 in their 50 overs, and then Rohit Sharma who hit a defiant 122* off 144 deliveries as they completed their chase in 47.3 overs.

This handed South Africa their third defeat in a row, which means they are on very shaky ground at the World Cup.

Bumrah used the overhead conditions to hustle out South Africa’s openers in quick time before Chahal struck four blows to add to South Africa’s woes. For the third World Cup match running, South Africa’s batting disappointed. Chris Morris hit a few attacking strokes to dominate a stand of 66 with Kagiso Radaba that helped get the score from 158/7 to 224/8 in the last over. Three of Morris’ team-mates entered the thirties but none managed to get a proper contribution.

Bumrah delivered two strikes in a telling opening spell of 5-0-13-2, in which he hit top speeds and found movement to beat every batsman he bowled to. His first wicket was Hashim Amla, who in the fourth over was forced to defend a delivery that got big on him and took the edge to second slip where Rohit held a neat low catch.

(FULL SCORECARD: INDIA vs SOUTH AFRICA, SOUTHAMPTON)

In his next over, Bumrah went fuller to Quinton de Kock who flashed his bat at width and nicked to Kohli at third slip for 10. At the end of the Powerplay, South Africa were 34/2. In this time, India bowled 42 dot balls.

In the next six overs, South Africa scored 31 runs, as fu Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen scampered and edged their way along to a semblance of confidence. Their stand of 54 was snapped by Chahal, who had van der Dussen (22) bowled around the legs when attempting an ill-advised reverse-sweep. Five balls later, du Plessis pressed forward to a quicker delivery and was bowled for 38. The grip had been tightened by wrist-spin.

Yuzvendra Chahal World Cup
Yuzvendra Chahal took 4/51 on World Cup debut against South Africa. © AFP

From here, the runs dried up as Kuldeep Yadav joined Chahal in a period of domination for India. JP Duminy (3) was kept quiet and erred in playing back to Kuldeep and was lbw. David Miller (34) and Phehlukwayo (31) resisted for a while but both had troubles against spin, and duly fell to the persevering Chahal. Miller went first, duped into hitting an easy catch back to the bowler and then Phehlukwayo charged out and was stumped.

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Two sixes from Morris somewhat bruised Chahal’s figures – his second spell of five overs yielded 2/31 – but to end with 4/51 on this surface was a very fine effort. Morris played sensibly and with Rabada (31*) displaying better application than some of his batting team-mates, a nagging partnership flowed. Morris perished for 42 off 34 balls in the last over, lofting Bhuvneshwar to Kohli at long-off. The innings ended with Imran Tahir top-edging Bhuvneshwar straight to cover.

Chasing 228, India’s top order had to contend with a feisty opening burst from Rabada. In his first over, Rabada had Shikhar Dhawan fending awkwardly to point and edging to du Plessis at second slip where a tough chance was grassed. In his second, Rabada squared up Rohit with a ripper and then cracked Dhawan’s bat with a pacy yorker. He had his man first ball of his next over, when Dhawan edged a leaden-footed drive to de Kock for 8.

(ALSO READ: Rohit Sharma scores 23rd ODI century, overtakes Sourav Ganguly)

Fifteen of the 21 runs Rabada conceded in his first five overs came in one over, in which Rohit top-edged six over fine leg and got fours to third man and point.

Morris also asked questions of Rohit, who was beaten and then edged over backward point. On 22, Rohit missed a ball from Phehlukwayo which was reviewed for lbw, but the umpire’s not-out verdict was upheld after replays.

Kohli looked good for his 18, which ended out of the blue when Phehlukwayo got one ball to sit up on the Indian skipper who poked at it away from the body and was stunningly taken, one-handed, by de Kock moving to his right. As reflex catches go, this was a terrific one from de Kock.

Rohit rode through choppy seas to collect a fighting half-century, which was raised off 70 deliveries. Joined by KL Rahul, Rohit flourished after his fifty with a swatted off Tabraiz Shamsi followed by some delicate cuts and drives. Shamsi and Tahir were played with confidence, with Rohit using his crease terrifically to steer and sweep. Shunning any risky shots, Rohit deflected the ball around in a superb assessment of how to pace the chase.

Not unexpectedly, it was Rabada who broke a stand of 85 when he returned and had Rahul (26) driving to mid-off.

That wicket slowed Rohit, who raised his 23rd ODI century off 128 balls. Moments later, he looked on as Miller put down the easiest of chances at cover, when a top edge spiralled up, off the persevering Rabada.

Morris settled under a miscue from MS Dhoni (34) with India 15 runs shy of victory, after adding 74 with Rohit in 89 balls. It wasn’t an easy chase, which highlights Rohit’s mastery of the conditions and attack.

Brief scores: India in 230/4 in 47.3 overs (Rohit 122*) beat South Africa 227/9 in 50 overs (Morris 42, Chahal 4/51) by six wickets