Champions Trophy 2013 1st Match: Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma start India’s campaign with a bang

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Dhawan’s maiden century sealed the deal for India

India started their Champions Trophy campaign in style, beating South Africa by 26 runs, thanks to Shikhar Dhawan’s maiden ODI ton.

Dhawan and his opening partner, Rohit Sharma, who made 65, left South Africa skipper AB de Villiers in absolute tatters as they cut the Proteas’ bowling attack down to their knees.

Having won the toss and elected to field, de Villiers said: “It is a bit overcast. There might be movement around. We have gone with four seamers. The other surprise is we are starting with Colin Ingram, he is opening the batting. We don’t want to risk Dale Steyn.”

Speaking about losing the toss, Dhoni said: “We were looking to bowl as well. I don’t think the wicket will change much. Vijay misses out. We can manage this much cold. Birmingham was really cold.”

Having lost the toss, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni would have expected his batsmen to struggle on a Cardiff pitch that looked to be a bowler’s dream, but Sharma and Dhawan proved him wrong and ensured the Indians got off to a flying start.

Putting on 127 runs at just a shade under six runs an over, Dhawan and Sharma effectively crippled the South African bowling attack, both figuratively and literally, as the Proteas’ pace spearhead Morne Morkel left the field with a left quad injury after bowling 6.5 overs for 27 runs.

Pace bowler Ryan McLaren provided the breakthrough for South Africa, getting rid of Sharma in the 22nd over, but it would be another 13 overs before any more wickets fell as Virat Kohli and Dhawan continued to build on the outstanding start to the innings.

Dhawan recorded his maiden ODI century just before Kohli was dismissed for 31 by Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

However, Dhawan failed to last much longer as he became the sole victim of JP Duminy’s bowling on his return to international cricket after spending nearly seven months on the sidelines with an Achilles injury he picked up in December while South Africa were touring Australia.

India’s last few partnerships all added valuable runs to the total, but it was all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja who stole the show at the end with an unbeaten 47 off 29 balls, which included seven boundaries and one massive six.

India finished with a brilliant 331 on the board, leaving South Africa hopelessly out of breath as they went into the pavilion for the innings break.

McLaren was the pick of the South African bowlers with three wickets, but Tsotsobe snapped up the key wickets of Kohli and Dhoni, while Duminy finished with one wicket.

Morkel was looking increasingly dangerous throughout his spells, but unfortunately he was unable to continue bowling after suffering the left quad injury.

South Africa were dealt two massive blows in their chase of 332 as openers Colin Ingram and Hashim Amla were both dismissed cheaply by the Indian seam attack.

De Villiers and Robin Peterson got round to repairing the early damage with an excellent 124-run partnership, during which both of them recorded half-centuries.

However, as the run rate continued to climb, the South Africa’s batsmen found themselves under more and more pressure, which eventually led to the downfall of both Peterson and de Villiers, who were dismissed for 68 and 70 respectively.

South Africa’s batting line-up started to collapse after both Peterson and de Villiers were back in the pavilion and McLaren was the only other batsman to put up any resistance as his team-mates continued to fall around him.

McLaren ended up scoring his maiden half-century in quick time and finished on 71 off 61 balls, which included 11 boundaries and a six, before South Africa were bowled out for 305.

India’s pace trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma all took two wickets apiece, while spinner Jadeja also chipped in with a duo of wickets.

Dhawan was named the Man of the Match for his maiden century.

“Really happy,” he said. “South Africa are a great bowling unit, pressure is always there, but you have to move on with it. Priority was to stay at the wicket, we knew we could play shots and recover. Left-right pairing works as well.”

Dhoni was pleased about the result after having lost the toss and being put in to bat in unfavourable conditions.

“Rohit batted well along with Shikhar, gave us a good platform, but we lost too many wickets during the middle, we were short by at least 25 runs,” he said. “Before you play the pull, best option is to take a single, if that is not working, go after the bowler. Boys played with plenty of aggression, but it was controlled. [Spin] was needed at that point of time. It worked for us, we got those run outs as well. You talk about giving guys consistent chances, last ODI Rohit played, he did as an opener, selectors also backed us up, they said let him play all three games as an opener, it worked for us.”

While de Villiers was satisfied to have crossed the 300 mark, he admitted that South Africa had the game in their hands, but lost key wickets at the “wrong times”.

“We got ourselves into a great position to win the game with the bat,” he said. “I am proud of the way we fought back through the day from some unfortunate instances, but we lost too many wickets. Amazing effort to keep them to 330, about par. We were above the run rate, but lost wickets at the wrong times, good captaincy from MS. Couple of runs outs cost us a bit.”

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