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India, backed by a magnificent hundred from Suresh Raina, clinched a high scoring encounter at St. Lucia against South Africa by 14 runs to top the Group C chart with 2 wins out of 2 in the ICC World Twenty20. Raina's 60-ball effort propelled India to a well above par 186, and the Proteas fell short despite Kallis' 73 and a late burst by AB de Villiers.
Being an early morning start, there was some wind across the ground and swing expected, which was why Graeme Smith made the natural decision to field first. Smith chose Loots Bosman over Herschelle Gibbs while Rory Kleinveldt and Morne Morkel grabbed the final two bowling spots to make it a 5 seamer - 1 spinner attack. In contrast, India chose Piyush Chawla over Zaheer Khan to make it 4 spinners and 2 seamers in their bowling unit. Also, Gautam Gambhir had to be rested due to a bout of diarrhea and Dinesh Karthik was slotted in at the top of the order.
The innings was off to a disastrous start as the very first ball could have produced a wicket. After a wide first up, the first legitimate ball from Rory Kleinveldt was nudged to gully by Karthik. Although both he and Murali Vijay set off for the run inintially, Karthik had a change of mind midway and the batsmen were caught at the strikers end. The throw, though, came at the same end and what should have been an easy runout ended up as 3 overthrows. Vijay, though, failed to make use of the life and his tentative poke off the very next ball was caught behind safely.
Enter the man, Suresh Kumar Raina. He, along with Karthik, had their fair share of daft wafts through the line early on as there was swing on offer for the tall African bowlers. With scoring difficult, it was Karthik who kept the pace with a boundary almost every over. He fell for 16 in the 6th over, failing to clear mid-on.
The struggling Yuvraj Singh came in and took his time settling in. With both left-handers looking not at their most fluent, the scoring rate was precariously low, never crossing 6. At the end of 8 overs, India's score was a mere 43/2, and big hits were a desperate need of the hour.
And that's exactly what the two southpaws delivered. With both having their eye in, it was hard hat time for the crowd at midwicket as both players took a special liking to tonking the ball over the ropes in that direction. Graeme Smith might just have missed a trick by handing the lone spinner Roelof van der Merwe just the solitary over, for both Raina and Yuvraj enjoyed using the pace on the ball and the length bowling was too easy to pick off.
Yuvraj Singh fell in the 16th over for 37, after sending 3 balls to the fence and two over, but that made no difference to Raina. At 136/3 with 3 overs to go, India could have expected 170-odd, but the 18th over delivered the 14 extra runs that separated the two sides in the end. After a six and a single from the first two balls by Pathan, Raina bludgeoned 3 fours and a six to kill Kleinveldt's figures and propel his own score to just 7 shy of a hundred. Steyn spoilt the party just a bit with the wicket of Pathan in the next over conceding just 6, but Dhoni and Raina more than made up with 19 off the last, including a six that got Raina his flamboyant hundred. It was only the third ever, after Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum, and came off 59 balls, with 9 fours and 5 sixes.
186 were going to be tough to chase, and in a surprise move, Graeme Smith opted not to come out straight away, promoting Loots Bosman and Jacques Kallis. With Harbhajan opening the bowling and Pathan replacing him after 2 overs, Bosman found it difficult to play the offies and eventually ran out of patience and fell for 8 trying to hit himself out of the vice like grip the spinners had on him.
Graeme Smith came at 3 and surprisingly neither he nor Kallis made any attempt to curb the rising required rate. They kept working the spinners around and hit the odd bad ball for a boundary, as if they were setting themselves up for the long haul in an ODI.
At the end of the 14th over, they had scored only half the runs (94/1) and despite the 9 wickets in hand, 93 from 36 at 15.5 per over looked exceedingly difficult. Yet, the Proteas decided to launch the charge just then, with Kallis hitting Harbhajan for two consecutive sixes. The next over saw two more, but Smith was run out for 36.
Kallis fell for 73, caught at long on, but De Villiers and Albie Morkel gave the Indians a bit of a late scare. Dhoni erred by giving Pathan the penultimate over, costing 19, but Nehra's tight 18th and 20th together went for 17 to end the chase 14 short of the target.
In retrospect, it must be said South Africa accelerated very, very late and had they done so just a couple of overs before, the match would have been very close indeed. Kallis, in particular should not have meandered as long as he did and had he seized the initiative earlier, we might have had a different winner. Neither the Indian over dependence on the spinners nor the South Africans' on pacers had any significant effect, and both captains may have erred by giving Praveen Kumar and Van der Merwe just one over respectively.
Raina was the hands down winner of the Man-of-the-Match cheque, but Nehra's and Steyn's bowlig efforts were both commendable. The fact that the match was a very high scoring one is curious indeed, for St. Lucia is a much bigger ground than some of the other venues in the Caribbean and the pitch too was not exactly loaded in favour for the willow wielders. Add to that a rather slow outfield, and the realization that T20 just like One Day Internationals shows just what a team can do towards the end of the innings if one has wickets in hand.
South Africa now need to beat Afghanistan to qualify for the Super 8s, which is why this loss should not really hurt their title chances in the slightest.
India: 186/5 (20.0 overs, 9.3rpo)
Suresh Raina 101 (60 balls; 9x4; 5x6) Â Â Â Â Â Â Rory Kleinveldt 4-0-48-2
Yuvraj Singh 37 (30 balls; 3x4; 2x6) Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Dale Steyn 4-0-24-1
South Africa: 172/5 (20.0 over, 8.6rpo)
Jacques Kallis 73 (54 balls; 3x4; 3x6) Â Â Â Â Â Yusuf Pathan 4-0-42-2
Graeme Smith 36 (28 balls; 1x4; 2x6) Â Â Â Â Â Ashish Nehra 4-0-27-1
Also read: West Indies vs. England Match Preview
File Photo Copyright: ICC World T20
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