Pressure plays a vital role in the game of cricket, it demands a lot of temperament to absorb it and bring out the best. India played South Africa in the 11th game of the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy at the Oval on Sunday, which was a virtual quarter-final. Prior to this game, both the teams were evenly placed in terms of points and were in need of a win to qualify for the semi-finals. Both the teams were evenly matched and had match-winning players in the line-up. It was a challenge for both but it turned out to be a one-way traffic as India not only won the game comprehensively but also dominated it.
India registered yet another emphatic win after a disheartening defeat against Sri Lanka in their previous encounter. India will now play Bangladesh in the semi-final and the battle between the two will be worth watching. South Africa, on the other hand, are eliminated from the tournament despite being one of the strongest sides in the tournament. Indian bowlers rose to the occasion and delivered when it mattered the most, they built solid pressure with the new ball and didn’t let South African batsmen get away with runs easily. They were very economical and bowled a tight line in order to squeeze easy runs.
India won the toss and put South Africa to bat first. Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock started off cautiously but endured too many dot deliveries in the course. Ravichandran Ashwin, who was brought back into the side, bowled well and provided the first breakthrough in the form of Amla. De Kock was also undone by Ravindra Jadeja and at the crease were South Africa’s two most reliable batsmen – Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers. The duo are pillars of strength in the South African batting line-up and are widely reckoned for the ability to hit the ball hard and anchor the innings with perfection.
Interestingly, Du Plessis and De Villiers also share a history of horrible mix-ups while running between the wicket in ICC events. Including De Villiers’ wicket in this contest, the duo have been involved in three run-outs in ICC events and all came at a crucial stage. It was De Villiers, who had to walk back on all the three occasions and South Africa failed to gain momentum after his wicket. This speaks the amount of impact and influence De Villiers has on the batting line-up.
De Villiers was not in good form in the recent times but looked absolutely comfortable for his 16 off 12 deliveries against the Indian bowlers. South Africa needed their superstar to perform on this big occasion and De Villiers looked all set to do so. South Africa got off a slow start and needed some kind of acceleration in order to put up a big total as Indian batsmen were in terrific form. When Du Plessis tapped a delivery from Jadeja towards point, the duo thought of sneaking a single and charged for it. Hardik Pandya collected the ball and in no time threw it dead right over the stumps in the hands of Dhoni. De Villiers put in a big dive but was found short of his ground and South Africa suffered a huge blow.
It didn’t end there, moments later, David Miller also got involved in a horrible mix-up while running between the wickets and had to walk back for a score of one. Miller got crucial runs in South Africa’s previous encounter against Pakistan and could have done some damage but it wasn’t to be. South Africa lost two key wickets due to run-outs and steered themselves in hot water. Their batting saw a dramatic collapse, from 140 for 2 they were bowled out for 191. They lost eight wickets for just 51 runs in a high-voltage encounter, which was the main reason behind them not putting up a fight. To add to their woes, when JP Duminy was the lone batsman standing at the crease, his partner Imran Tahir also fell short of the crease while trying to get a double.
If one introspects closely, run-outs were triggered by the tight line maintained by the bowlers. All the Indian bowlers didn’t leak too many free runs and South Africa were desperate to accelerate. When a bowling side maintains this kind of pressure, every run becomes important and batsmen are in continuous search of breaking the shackles. Also, one shouldn’t forget that India were awful when it came to fielding in their last two games but did a commendable job in this one. They saved runs and pounced on every opportunity offered.
Chasing 192 was no big deal for India and they did it with ease. Shikhar Dhawan once again put up an emphatic show with the bat and then Virat Kohli got the job done alongside Yuvraj Singh. India won the game by eight wickets as South Africa once again floundered in a crunch situation. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that South African bowlers didn’t have enough runs on the board to defend. A total of around 250 would have put up an interesting battle considering the kind of firepower South Africa have in their bowling. Their batting also didn’t live up to the expectations against Pakistan and something similar happened against India as well. South Africa will certainly be disappointed by their performance as not many expected them to be knocked-out in the league stages.