India’s pursuit to protect their World Cup title began remarkably well as they beat Pakistan by 76 runs in their opening game of the tournament. The Indian team appeared to be well settled and though it wasn’t the most experienced team the World Cup has seen; it still looked highly competitive and ready to take on the world.
After the hype of the India vs. Pakistan match finally sizzled out, it was down to business. The next team India were to face was South Africa, a very unpredictable and dangerous World Cup team. South Africa were coming off a high, they had been playing extremely well in the lead up to the tournament and were expected to be very competitive. However South Africa and World Cups do not go well together. They had already had a shakey start against Zimbabwe losing their top four wickets for 83 runs. It was only thanks to David Miller and JP Duminy were they able to reach 300+ runs.
Regardless of South Africa’s World Cup antics, they had never lost a game against India in a World Cup. This game was to be their fouth against each other, with South Africa having chased down every total set by India in the three previous head-to-heads.
MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat first. A fairly strange decision considering India’s chasing record and the fact that all three loses to South Africa have been where India batted first. However India’s bowling unit have appeared a lot more consistent recently and if Indian batsmen could set a large total and then put pressure on the South African top order, they could be in with a chance.
It all began quite badly for India as a huge mix-up between the openers left Rohit Sharma well short of his crease in the third over. The wicket brought in the the man of the match against Pakistan and everyone already seemed to have forgotten that a wicket had just fallen. The cheers from the crowd as Virat Kohli walked onto the pitch were deafening. Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli toiled away and put on a great patnership of 125. They began very slowly and the run rate didn’t hit four until the 14th over. The pair batted well, they took very few risks after the first wicket fell and gave away only a few chances.
South Africa on the other hand fielded terribly. Considering they are one of the sharpest fielding teams around, it was amazing how many misfields there were. Dhawan was dropped by Hashim Amla on 53 and JP Duminy missed a runout chance; had either of these chances been taken, South Africa could have been facing a much smaller total to chase. Not only that, a lot of runs were given away through poor ground fielding. Imran Tahir removed Kohli on 46 but it was a bad ball and a poor shot that got him as he smacked it straight into the hands of Faf du Plessis. The next man in was Ajinkya Rahane. Rahane played a great innings and ran very well between the wickets with Dhawan. He showed true class hitting seven fours and three sixes. Dale Steyn looked almost like an ordinary bowler against these two and after South Africa lost Vernon Philander to a hamstring injury, their bowling department looked weak. Wayne Parnell ended up bowling the extra overs and was the most expensive South African bowler in the history of the World Cup, he conceded 85 runs in his nine overs.
Dhawan went on to make an incredible 137 to anchor the Indian innings. Once he got out it began to resemble their’s against Pakistan but with seven overs to go and 261 runs on the board, all the batsmen had to do were come out and swing. Had Raina or Dhoni been able to connect from the first ball, India could have been looking at 320+. They still ended on a highly respectable 307, the highest target India have set out of the four games.
307 might be a decent target against most teams, but not against South Africa if they settle in. India still had their work cut out for them and unless they were able to take early wickets, they would be in some serious trouble. Dhoni stuck with the same bowling attack that played against Pakistan, it appeared to be a good mix of bowlers that complimented each other well and once again they did not disappoint. India’s bowlers were able to do what South Africa’s could not. They picked off the batsmen at crucial intervals. Just when partnerships were beginning to look dangerous, another wicket fell. Both Quinton de Cock and Hashim Amla fell early. At 40-2 from 11 overs, South Africa needed to consolidate and gather themselves just as Kohli and Dhawan had done. It was not as though they were in any trouble with Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers at the crease. In fact, South Africa were still well in the game. The pair looked like they were on the right track as they added 68 to the total but at a crucial time, AB de Villers was run out going for the second run. There was no need to take the extra risk so early on in the innings. Faf du Plessis top scored with 55, he initially looked like he might go on to make a big score but once again, the Indians broke through. From there it was only downhill for South Africa, they went from 133-4 to 158-8 in less than 10 overs. The South African innings ended 130 runs short of India’s total.
It was an anti-climactic game considering how competitive both teams are and how each game of the three previous World Cup head-to-heads have gone. It did however prove just how capable and hungry the Indian’s are to retain their World Cup title. They may well be in with a shot if they can keep up their momentum.
15th of February, probably the most anticipated day of the past four years for most Indians. Everyone forgot about Valentine’s Day in all the excitement for the 15th of Feb. India vs. Pakistan.
It was an incredibly hot afternoon in Adelaide and all the Indian and Pakistani fans had swarmed into the city for the day. The streets were bathed in blues and greens and the air filled with drumming and chanting. The Adelaide Oval saw over 40,000 fans gather in the stadium for the match in wigs and costimes with flags and drums, it was an incredible sight. The match was set to be the most watched game in the history of cricket. It was expected that over a billion viewers would tune in to watch India vs Pakistan.
It was MS Dhoni who won the toss and decided to bat first, the crowd noise when he won the toss was as though India had already won the game.
The match began well for Pakistan when they removed Rohit Sharma early on in the eighth over, but that was their only significant breakthrough until the 46th over. Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan put on a great partnership of 127 runs and Virat Kohli went on to once again impress the cricketing world and score an incredible century. The young star smashed through more records as he became the first Indian to score a century in a World Cup against Pakistan. He also became the first Indian to score a century in an World Cup hosted by Australia. Kohli hadn’t had the best time in the Carlton tri-series against England and Australia even though he had played beautifully in the Test matches but as always, when it really mattered, Kohli stepped up to the challenge. It could have ended very differently for Pakistan though had they taken all of their chances. Kohli was dropped on three and 76 and once he was dismissed, India faced some real trouble with five wickets falling in the space of 24 runs. Had Pakistan dismissed him earlier they may have been chasing a much more reachable total.
Misbah Ul Haq ran out Shikhar Dhawan on 73 when India were on 163 but that only brought in Suresh Raina. A very strange decision as Ajinkya Rahane was yet to bat. Whatever Dhoni’s reasoning was to push Raina up the order, it appeared to be a good one. Raina hit three sixes and five fours in his innings and scored at better than a run a ball. He took some of the pressure of Kohli which likely helped the vice-captain reach his century. India didn’t lose another wicket until 273 runs when Kohli edged the ball to Umar Akmal in the 46th over. It looked as though they would easily reach 320+ runs considering they were only three wickets down even without Kohli, especially with Dhoni ‘the finisher’ to come. However, India stuttered. As soon as Kohli got out, Raina followed suit along with Ravindra Jadeja and Ajinkya Rahane who got out for three and a duck respectively. Dhoni contributed to the total but only 27 runs were scored in the final four overs and it almost looked like India would not reach 300. Sohail Khan dragged back the Indians as he went on to pick up five wickets. Understandably the Indian batsmen were going in to swing for the ball considering their total already and the fact that they had wickets in hand. Though with four overs to go and two set batsmen just being dismissed, it was not an ideal situation. India could have ended on a much higher total had Raina become slightly more careful once Kohli was dismissed.
Regardless of India’s ending, 300 runs was going to be a difficult chase for Pakistan. They lost their first wicket fairly early but slowly built back up. Haris Sohail along with Ahmed Shehzad put on a 68 run partnership for the second wicket. Once again though, India broke through the partnership as it was beginning to look good. Misbah Ul Haq, the captain, was the next man in who had rescued Pakistan on more than one occasion. Once again his team needed him to perform but they could not provide the support to back him up. The next three wickets fell in the space of two runs leaving Pakistan 103-5. Shahid Afridi came in and made a start, he hit a six but never looked completely comfortable. Had Afridi been having a good day, Pakistan might have gotten much closer to the 300 target. However he was removed by another great spell from Mohammed Shami and from there on it was clear that India had the game. Misbah went on to score 76 but Pakistan still fell 76 runs short of the total.
The Indian bowlers did not look like their usual uncompetitive selves, Dhoni coaxed fiery spells out of his fast bowlers and used them very effectively. Shami picked up five wickets and both Mohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav picked up two each. The fast bowlers were well backed up by Ravindra Jadeja who took a wicket and Ravi Ashwin who bowled three maiden overs and also picked up a wicket. It was an all-round strong opening performance by India and a positive start in their quest to retain the World Cup title.