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Proteas in elimination danger as Sharma takes India home; Kiwis move to top

Rohit Sharma hit a short ball from Kagiso Rabada high into the Southampton sky. Unlike the ones that came off the edge in the early exchanges, a South African, David Miller, was able to settle under this chance.

It made no difference; the ball still hit the ground.

Sharma added 15 runs to be still there on an unbeaten 122 when Hardik Pandya carved Andile Phehlukwayo down to third-man. That boundary took the India score to 230 for 4 and gave them an easy 6-wkt win in their opening match of the 2019 World Cup.

Photo: India batsman Rohit Sharma scored an unbeaten century against Australia yesterday.
(Copyright Cricket Rediff)

Meanwhile, in a see-saw match over in The Oval in London, with seven wickets in hand, the Kiwis were more than 180 runs short of the 245 target set them by Bangladesh when New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson was run out by yards. But when Mehidy eventually had him caught by Mosaddek at long-on for 40, his team needed only 85 runs for victory.

And they finally got them with only two wickets and 17 balls left.

Back in the Rose Bowl, Proteas captain Faf du Plessis opted to take first strike, his team having lost their two previous matches after batting first. But in overcast conditions on a pitch with a little nip, India’s skipper Virat Kohli employed attacking fields to support his opening bowlers, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar (2 for 44) and Jasprit Bumrah (2 for 35).

It paid dividends. Both openers fell to slip catches, leaving the Proteas on 24 for 2 after five overs. But du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen weathered the storm for a while until the latter rashly attempted to reverse-sweep Yuzvendra Chahal and lost his middle stump.

Du Plessis (38) and JP Duminy (3) soon joined him in the pavilion and Miller (31 off 40) would make it four scalps for the wrist-spinner whose final figures read 10-0-51-4. But Miller was still there when Phehlukwayo strode to the wicket at 89 for 5. The pair had a long midwicket conversation, presumably agreeing that occupation was what was required in the situation.

For the next 13 overs, therefore, the pair were a model of circumspection, apparently determined to ensure that the innings would go all the way to the 50th over. So Miller’s self-disgust was palpable when he drove at the third ball of Chahal second spell and offered the bowler a simple return catch.

Photo: South Africa captain Faf Du Plessis.

Phehlukwayo (34 off 61) smashed Kedar Yadhav over long-on for the game’s first six and was stumped by MS Dhoni as he attempted to damblay the feat. Morris (42 off 34) succeeded where his team-mate had failed, smiting two mighty sixes in succession over the leg-side boundary.

He was less lucky the third time around, Kohli snaffling the catch at long-off.

When India replied, in pursuit of 228, Kohli (18) himself would fall to a splendid catch by de Kock, who flung himself high and wide to his right to pouch the edge and give Phehlukwayo (1/40) his only wicket. De Kock had already caught Shikhar Dhawan (8) in the sixth over to leave India on 13 for 1, which became 54 for 2 with Kohli’s departure.

Man-of-the-Match Sharma, largely unconvincing up to that point, gradually came into his own and would go on to score his 23 ODI century, losing only KL Rahul (26) and Dhoni (34) before his side eventually coasted to the win.

In London, there was no coasting for the victorious New Zealanders. Openers Martin Guptill (25) and Colin Munro (24) both fell to Shakib, leaving the Kiwis on 55 for 2. Ross Taylor (82 off 91) and Williamson (40 off 72) came together in a stand of 105 before the skipper exited. But the partnership had not been incident-free, Man-of-the-Match Taylor having survived a run-out by a whisker at 73 for 1. And Williamson had had to return to the pitch when he was apparently run out at 62 for 2. T&T’s third umpire Joel Wilson determined that wicketkeeper Mushfiqur had disturbed the bails prematurely and then failed to take a stump out of the ground to complete the dismissal as required by the laws of the game.

Thereafter, the Kiwis did their level best to keep the Bangladeshis interested, wickets falling at regular intervals whenever the batsmen looked to be on the way to a comfortable win.

Photo: New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor goes on the attack against Bangladesh.

It required the levelheadedness of Mitchell Santner, who struck two boundaries off 12 balls in his 17, to finally silence the energetic. ebullient Bangladeshi supporters in the large crowd.

Earlier, a run-out was also the story of the Bangladeshi innings. After Tamim Iqbal (24) and Soumya Sarkar (25) had fallen to leave the side on 60 for 2, the old pair of stalwarts, Shakib al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, came together to add another 50.

At 110, Mushfiqur (19 off 35) took off for a non-existent run off his drive towards the cover region and, sent back by Shakib, failed to make his ground. Shakib (64 off 68) stayed until, at 151 in the 31st over, de Grandhomme induced an edge and Latham accepted the chance.

Thereafter, Matt Henry (4/47) claimed three scalps to restrict the lower-middle and lower order to decent contributions. But Mohammad Mithun (26), Mahmudullah (20) and Mohammad Saifuddin (29 off 23) were not able to take the score into regions where it was beyond an opposition not intent on self-destruction.

The West Indies will be hoping to see alphabetical order imposed on Saturday when Afghanistan, who went under to Sri Lanka by 34 runs on Tuesday, take on new table-toppers New Zealand in Cardiff and a disappointed Bangladesh come up against a disappointing England in Taunton.

And, since the cricket gods only help those who help themselves, they will strive to put another nail in South Africa’s coffin when the two meet at the Ageas Bowl on Monday.

Photo: West Indies pacer Andre Russell (centre) celebrates a Pakistan wicket with Darren Bravo (right) while captain Jason Holder looks on.
(Copyright Rediff)

Before that, there’s tomorrow’s assignment in Nottingham where they’ll have to try to beat Australia at their own game

By fair means or foul.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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