Horrendous collapse after Tendulkar century restricts India to 296

A collapse reminiscent of the one in the match against England by both, India and South Africa stalled the innings in the middle and allowed South Africa to claw back into the game.

By Suneer Chowdhary

Nagpur: Mar 12, 2011

At 267 for one in the 40th over, two set batsmen in Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir at the crease and 21 balls of the Batting Powerplay still remaining, one would have to think of 350 as the bare minimum target. A collapse reminiscent of the one in the match against England by both, India and South Africa stalled the innings in the middle and allowed South Africa to claw back into the game.

India managed only 296, bowled out with eight balls to spare. On a flat-looking pitch, it gives South Africa a good chance of chasing it down. With India dropping one of their spinners from the line-up, it will obviously mean that the pace bowlers will have to do the job for the Indians; an onerous task given their previous performances.

The pair of Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar has exploded on previous occasions in this World Cup, but in none of the previous games had the two gone on to make the starts count, together. And if that was the one thing that they had set out to remedy in this game, they did exactly that against South Africa at the VCA in Nagpur.

Sehwag hit the first ball he faced from Dale Steyn for a boundary and his innings kick-started from that point. Majority of the strike was hogged by him but he made sure that he made it count.

What made it special for Tendulkar was that despite not getting too much of the strike, he matched Sehwag stroke for stroke, and even got his runs at a quicker rate. At the end of the seventh over, for example, Sehwag had played 34 of the deliveries, scoring 37 whereas Tendulkar had only nine to his name.

That was hardly a deterrent and the pair went about their business as if 400 was what they were aiming at. India broke the record for the highest number of runs in the first Powerplay, 87, and with no wickets down, there was a decent chance that they could get there.

It was the introduction of the spinners and sending back of the third fielder outside the 30 yard circle that pulled the run-rate down. 41 did come off the next five with both the batsmen getting to their fifties but once the 15 overs had elapsed the momentum clearly came to drop regularly.

Johan Botha had Sehwag dropped on 70 after Morne van Wyk had missed another in only the second over of the game but Faff du Plessis bowled him for 73.

The under-pressure Gautam Gambhir replaced Sehwag at the crease and for the first few overs, there was evidence of the lack of runs bothering his timing. India were 155 for 1 at the end of the 20th over and only 42 came off the next ten, but more importantly without the loss of any wicket. At 197 for 1, one would have thought that the score of more than 360 would have been easy to achieve with the Batting Powerplay still remaining.

Tendulkar slowed down slightly as he approached his 48th ODI century but one would have thought that he had done his job when he was dismissed for 111 (101 balls) in the Batting Powerplay. It was that very Batting Powerplay that brought about the beginning of their end.

30 came off those five overs, but most importantly, there were four wickets and the momentum lost. Soon after Virat Kohli, who had been pushed down the order lost his wicket and the rest of the tail tumbled in a spineless fashion.

India had lost nine wickets for 29 and South Africa had made a remarkable comeback through Steyn. Steyn, who had conceded 34 in his first four overs, ended with five for 50 in his tenth.

Brief Scores: India 296 all out in 48.4 overs (Sachin Tendulkar 111, Virender Sehwag 73; Dale Steyn 5 for 50, Robin Peterson 2 for 52) vs South Africa.

(Suneer is a Mumbai-based cricket writer and can be contacted at suneerchowdhary@gmail.com and Tweets here @suneerchowdhary)

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