India produced a comprehensive performance on Thursday to beat South Africa by eight wickets in a must-win clash to book a place in the semifinals of the Champions Trophy. In a clash between the defending champions and the world’s top-ranked ODI team, Kohli and his men emerged deserved winners with a complete performance.
India went into the game after enduring an embarrassing 7-wicket loss against Sri Lanka which almost jeopardised their campaign. They were in need of a turnaround to stay alive in the tournament. But not only did they rout the Proteas, but produced a performance which would have sent shivers down the spines of their opponents.
South Africa have a reputation of choking in the big games of ICC tournaments. But unlike 1999 and 2015, they just failed to compete. The disintegration was not achieved by chance – instead, it was meticulously planned and implemented.
The Kohli-led side left no stone unturned to correct their mistakes from the previous games as every department performed to its potential. It was a combination of some great calls and ruthless determination.
R Ashwin’s selection paid off
When Sri Lanka’s batsmen charged at the Indian pacers, the responsibility to check the flow of runs and take wickets fell on the shoulders of Ravindra Jadeja. The usually reliable left-arm spinner wasn’t at his best on the day and his poor performance left Kohli wanting for added variety in his pace-heavy one-dimensional attack.
So in came Ravichandran Ashwin at the expense of Umesh Yadav. It provided greater balance to the team and the off-spinner completely justified the decision. Ashwin produced the initial breakthrough which allowed India to get back into the game after Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock made a slow but steady start. His disciplined line was too much to take for Amla as he tried to cut a flat delivery, giving away a catch to MS Dhoni. That was the start of a mighty collapse.
Pacers rediscovered their potency
The pacers were made to toil hard by the Lankans and could collectively fetch only one wicket in the infamous loss. A similar performance against the Proteas would have seriously dented India’s chances. But their disciplined bowling would have only added to Kohli’s confidence in his pace battery.
The fast bowlers consistently bowled a good line and length and kept the pressure on the batsmen. The lack of early wickets didn’t deter their morale as they chipped in with important wickets at regular intervals after the spinners had made the early inroads. Jasprit Bumrah was also awarded man-of-the-match for his impressive display. The pacers picked up four of the seven wickets that fell to bowlers – including two wickets in two beautiful deliveries for Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Sharp fielding rocked the South African boat
Indian fielders haven’t had the best of the time in the tournament so far. And that’s odd, given how the fielding has become so much better in this era. But they had been guilty of being sloppy and lacked sharpness in the first two Champions Trophy matches. The half chances went begging. On Thursday though, India also managed to raise their fielding standards, which aptly complimented the disciplined bowling.
AB de Villiers and David Miller’s run-outs not only put the brakes on South Africa’s scoring rate, they also proved detrimental to their cause – a setback from which they never recovered as they lost their last seven wickets for just 51 runs.
Virat Kohli makes amends for previous failure
After failing to open his account against the Lankans, Kohli sprung back into form with a gritty 76 off 101 deliveries. The innings was devoid of flamboyancy but embodied determination. He was tentative at the beginning but with time, his strokes became more and more reassuring, taking India across the line with ease.
Kohli is the centerpiece of India’s batting strength and entering the business end with runs in his kitty is the ideal situation he would have hoped for.
Feature image: ICC