India crush South Africa cruise into semi-finals of Champions Trophy

India crush South Africa cruise into semi-finals of Champions Trophy

India crush South Africa cruise into semi-finals of Champions Trophy
Indian bowlers delivered a brilliant opening act before their famed batting line-up produced a fitting climax to walk away with a thunderous applause from a sold-out Oval crowd here on Sunday.

Disciplined and determined in the do-or-die Champions Trophy final Group B encounter, defending champions India first feasted on some nervous South African batting and running between the wickets to bowl them out for 191. Shikhar Dhawan 78 (83b, 12x4, 1x6) and Virat Kohli 76 (101b, 7x4, 1x6) then rubbed salt into their wounds as India posted an eight-wicket win to march into semifinals. India are all but certain to top the group and if it stays that way post the Sri Lanka versus Pakistan game on Monday, they will take on Bangladesh in the second last-four clash at Birmingham on Thursday.

Indian opening pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2/23) and Jasprit Bumrah (2/28) vindicated skipper Kohli’s decision to bowl first in the virtual quarterfinal with a controlled first spell. Well aware of the danger Quinton de Kock — who has hammered five centuries in 9 matches against India — can spell, both Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah stuck to the middle and leg-stump line.

They offered no room whatsoever for de Kock, who loves his cuts and drives. Amla, at the other end, typically dropped anchor and South Africa struggled to get going. Runs came at a sedate pace and with both de Kock and Amla choosing not to throw caution to the wind it seemed South Africa had opted to play the waiting game.

Although a wicket didn't fall, it worked perfectly for India as they knew at some stage South Africa will have to break free from the shackles they had gotten themselves entangled into. Strike one occurred in the 18th over when ace off-spinner R Ashwin, brought in place of Umesh Yadav for this game, forced a mistake from Amla (35, 54b) who was slowly upping the tempo with a couple of uncharacteristic shots. South Africa, slightly on the ascendancy then, again fell back into defensive mould. This made things easier for the Indians, who enjoyed tightening the noose around the Proteas’ necks.

Strike two happened in the 25th over when de Kock (53, 72b, 4x4) was bowled after missing a faster one from Ravindra Jadeja while attempting a sweep. It was then left to the trusted pair of Faf du Plessis and A B de Villiers to stage another rescue act and for a brief while it looked they would do it.

De Villiers, with scores of 4 and 0 in the two games so far, looked fluent in creaming four boundaries while Du Plessis appeared assured. But all hell broke loose in the 28th over when de Villiers was run out though a brilliant piece of fielding from Hardik Pandya. From 140/3 it soon became 142/4 following a dismal piece of running that has become a hallmark of South African sides in such crunch games. Du Plessis cut the ball, called for a single and partner David Miller got off the blocks instantly. However, Du Plessis hesitated and, in a comedy of errors, both the batsmen ran to the same end. Kohli whipped the bails off and the Indians celebrated.

From therein it was just a quintessential South Africa ‘choke’ as Indians kept landing one blow after another. The final nail was hammered when Du Plessis played a Pandya off-cutter onto the stumps in the 34th over. South Africa lost their last eight wickets for 51 runs and India trudged away for lunch knowing they had one foot in the semifinals.

South African fast bowlers tried their best to script a comeback but the Indians would have had to play some real bad cricket to lose this one. That was not to be as Kohli and Dhawan saw off some early pressure before taking wings to soar into the semifinals.