India 326 for 5 (Kohli 101*, Iyer 77, Maharaj 1-30) beat South Africa 83 (Jansen 14, Jadeja 5-33, Kuldeep 2-7) by 243 runs
Virat Kohli gifted himself a record-equalling 49th ODI century and India their eighth successive victory in this World Cup, on his 35th birthday. When Kohli drew level with Sachin Tendulkar, with a punched single in the penultimate over of India’s innings, a crowd of 60,000 at Eden Gardens celebrated with Kohli and made it a memorable birthday bash.
Kohli, who walked out to bat in the sixth over after Rohit Sharma had won the toss and challenged India to bat, batted till the end of the innings, lifting India to an above-par 326 for 5. He ended up outscoring South Africa who could manage just 83 in 27.1 overs. Ravindra Jadeja bagged career-best figures of 5 for 33 to wreck South Africa’s chase and consign them to their joint second-lowest total in ODI cricket.
Most of Kohli’s centuries in recent times have had an air of inevitability about them. Sunday’s innings was anything but. The conditions in Kolkata were challenging and even Kohli had struggled to get the old ball away. South Africa’s left-arm spinners Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi also challenged Kohli with drift, dip and turn.
In his very first over, Maharaj had knocked Shubman Gill (23) over with a ripper that beat his outside edge to trim the off bail. When Maharaj bowled a similar delivery to Kohli, the ball missed the outside edge. Having run away to a fast start – he was on 17 off 13 balls at one point – Kohli slowed down against spin, but he navigated that passage of play to pick the seamers away. When Lungi Ngidi was brought back into the attack in the 35th over, Kohli jumped out of his crease and shovelled him away for four.
Maharaj’s boundary-less spell – 10-0-30-1 – was a throwback to ODIs in the 90s. Even Shreyas Iyer, who is arguably India’s best player of spin, couldn’t throw Maharaj off his lines and lengths. Iyer instead lined up Shamsi for four boundaries and allowed Kohli to bat deep into the innings. After being on 12 off 35 balls, Iyer zoomed to 77 off 87 balls.
With no batting insurance in the form of Hardik Pandya, who has now been sidelined from the rest of the tournament, Kohli refused to take any undue risks. Suryakumar Yadav (22) and Jadeja (29) took such risks at the other end, ensuring that India passed 300.
It was Rohit who had laid the foundation for the 134-run third-wicket partnership between Kohli and Iyer. The India captain dashed out of the blocks in the powerplay, cracking 40 off 24 balls. He dismantled Marco Jansen, the most prolific bowler in the powerplay in this tournament, and Ngidi, South Africa’s enforcer in the absence of Gerald Coetzee.
Jansen ended up conceding 94 in 9.4 overs for just one wicket. As for Ngidi, he left the field two balls into the final over of India’s innings with an injury scare.
South Africa’s troubles then seeped into their batting. Quinton de Kock chopped Mohammed Siraj on in the second over while Temba Bavuma was bowled by Jadeja, who got the new ball to rag away past the outside edge.
Things were only going to get tougher against the older, softer ball. Jadeja and Mohammed Shami overpowered South Africa’s middle order. Jadeja removed Henrich Klaasen and David Miller while Shami bested Aiden Markram with Test-match line and length. After bringing a pair of deliveries back into Markram from over the wicket, Shami had one to leave the batter and kiss the outside edge.
At one stage, it appeared like India might not even need Kuldeep Yadav, their premier spinner, with the ball. But Jansen and the tail wagged long enough to prompt the introduction of the left-arm wristspinner. Kuldeep kept them guessing by turning the ball both ways and came away with two wickets. Jadeja claimed his second five-wicket haul in ODI cricket; he also became the second Indian spinner
after Yuvraj Singh, to take a five-for in World Cups.
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