India bow out despite victory
Seldom has an Indian victory evoked as muted a celebration as the one witnessed here on Tuesday night and never a match as tight as this one has been watched with such impassiveness.
Going into their final Super Eight match, India’s task was cut out — win against South Africa and win big. Admittedly, India’s challenge had increased manifold after Pakistan pulled off an upset of massive proportions, simply going by the form the Australians were in thus far.
Pakistan’s 32-run win, fashioned largely by their spinners, had seen a significant jump in their net run-rate from -0.42 to +0.25, which meant India had to restrict South Africa to 121 once they managed 152/6 batting first at the R Premadasa Stadium.
Even considering the wretched run the South Africans had had in this tournament, it was an unfair demand on the Indian bowlers to get the job done. To their credit, the bowlers did their best keeping India’s hopes alive for a considerable length of the South African chase but there was only so much they could do.
Once the Proteas went past that 121-mark, India even appeared to forget that there was still a match to be won. In the end, however, they kept their wits about themselves to snatch the narrowest of wins, by one run. In the end, India finished with four points, the same as Pakistan and Australia, but lost out on net run-rate.
The conditions weren’t suited for free stroke-play, yet the Indian batsmen could have shown a bit more spunk and spine in a high-stake game. Losing too many wickets up front — all top three dismissed inside of six overs — meant they were saddled with an enormous task of salvaging the situation. Rohit Sharma’s sluggish batting did little to help India’s cause while Suresh Raina (45, 34b, 5x4) and MS Dhoni’s late flourish only provided them with nothing more than a hope.
Dhoni admitted 121 was a very small target to defend. “You know 120 was quite a low target to defend. So overall we have won this game by one run, so it is difficult to say if a few strategies had been changed we could have defeated them big.”
This must have come as an absolute heartbreak for India for the simple fact that despite producing their best ever show in three Super Eights and ending the table with two wins, just like Australia and Pakistan, they have been dumped out of the meet.