India blast into semis after SA post meagre 191
South Africa paid a high price for five minutes of madness in their shootout with India for a Champions Trophy semifinal place at The Oval yesterday. That price was an anaemic total of 191, a low hurdle that India hopped in 38 overs to win by eight wickets.
In the process, India burnished their reputation as a team who seize the moment and with it the trophy – they have won the World Cup, the Champions Trophy and the World T20 in the last 10 years.
South Africa confirmed that when the kitchen heats up they head for the garage: they have won one match in their last 19 trips to those three tournaments when elimination has loomed, and that game was not a final.
AB de Villiers’ men seemed on course for a far more substantial score, while Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla were compiling their partnership of 76 – South Africa’s highest opening stand in the tournament and only their second of 50 or more for any wicket.
Drama did not seem imminent when Amla cut Ravichandran Ashwin into MS Dhoni’s gloves in the 18th over, and when De Kock reached a half-century it was noted that all five times he had made 50 in one-day internationals against India he had gone on to a century.
Not this time. De Kock scored 53 before swiping past a delivery from Ravindra Jadeja that nailed his off-stump.
Even so, at 116/2 and not quite halfway through their innings, South Africa seemed set to post a total that could compete with India’s potent batting order. Five overs later, the madness struck. At 12.24pm, Faf du Plessis nudged Jadeja to point and tried to take a single that was not there for the taking, and even a full length dive by De Villiers could not stop one of cricket’s most fleet-footed players from being run out.
That would have been a cruel blow to absorb for South Africa’s captain, who came into the tournament as the No 1 ranked batsman in the format, but scored only four runs from the five deliveries he faced in his first two innings.
He had a shot at redemption yesterday, and he seemed determined to take it.
But it was stolen from him by poor judgement and, perhaps, fate.
At 12.29pm, Du Plessis cut Ravichandran Ashwin to short third man, set off on a run, changed his mind and returned to his crease, and looked up to see David Miller at the same end of the pitch.
The ball was duly delivered to the other end, and after much deliberation it was decided that Miller was the one to go.
In the space of those five minutes and the six deliveries they encompassed, South Africa’s hopes of staying alive in this tournament ebbed to a new low.
Their supporters will dispute that assertion considering how many times they have been shot in this movie before – every four years since 1992.
Du Plessis was their last hope of rewriting that sorry script, but he dragged Hardik Pandya onto his stumps four overs after Miller went.
Up in the dressing room, De Villiers sat ashen-faced. Fate had dictated that he was not required to bat in the only knockout match South Africa have won during his career – the 2015 World Cup quarterfinal against Sri Lanka in Sydney.
Other players looked equally distraught – the sight of De Kock, his arm draped consolingly, even protectively, around Miller’s shoulder was particularly poignant.
South Africa’s last eight wickets disappeared for 51 runs, all 10 for 115, and two of them in as many deliveries by Bhuv Kumar.
Imran Tahir survived, with a squirt to third man, the hat-trick ball, which was accompanied by a rising roar of demand from an apparently exclusively India-supporting, sell-out crowd. The innings was ended by, would you not know it, Tahir’s run out.
India’s reply was more a festival than a fight, so much so that Tahir did not take his customary tear into the outfield when he had Shikhar Dhawan caught in the deep for 78 to end a second-wicket stand of 128.
Dhawan’s partner, Virat Kohli, finished with 76 not out.
Now, there is a man who knows his way around the kitchen.