India storm into the semis with an all-round performance

The beginning:

 

The potential quarter-final got off to a perfect start for Team India as Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to field first. India made one change as Ravichandran Ashwin made way for Umesh Yadav. South Africa too, made one change as Andile Phehlukwayo replaced Wayne Parnell.

 

The South African innings started in sunshine as both, Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla, took their time at the start. The Oval pitch looked on the slower side, compared to the last time with the batsmen struggling to get their timing right. The Indian bowlers bowled wicket-to-wicket and increased the pressure. At the end of 5 overs, they were 21/0.

 

de Kock was the first one to accelerate as he found the gaps in the first Powerplay. Indian skipper, Virat Kohli, made sure the momentum is on his side with some aggressive field placements. At the end of 10 overs, the South African opening pair was still on the crease, slowly building the innings. They survived a couple of run-out chances and a dropped catch as well. They brought up their 50-run partnership in the 13th over as India searched for the first wicket.

 

India had to wait till the 18th over when Hashim Amla, who was looking comfortable on 35, edged one to Dhoni off Ashwin. Playing his first match of Champions Trophy 2017, Ashwin got the wicket India needed. In came Faf du Plessis at number 3 and gave the required push. He was scoring at a Strike Rate of more than 100 for the initial period. De Kock and du Plessis then put on a decent partnership together as the wicketkeeper-batsman completed his 14th ODI fifty and continued his good form against India. But he departed soon as he missed his slog-sweep and got bowled to Jadeja. At the end of 25 overs, South Africa were 119/2 with AB de Villiers accompanying du Plessis.

 

With the most-experienced South African pair on the crease, India needed to make sure they break the partnership as soon as possible. The 29th over changed the complexion of the match as de Villiers, in quest of taking a quick single, fell short and got run-out for 16. It was a huge wicket for India and their happiness doubled as next man, David Miller, got run-out in the next over. With two wickets gone, South Africa were suddenly struggling for 142/4 and they needed a partnership to settle things down.

 

JP Duminy, who was struggling to get runs in this tournament so far, had to take up the responsibility and the southpaw responded. He made sure that he is there at the crease with du Plessis. But as things were looking settled for the Proteas, Pandya struck with Faf chopping one back on his stumps. He made 36 but looked disappointed as he could not convert it into a big one. At the end of 34 overs, SA were 159/5.

 

But it all went downward thereafter as they lost wickets at regular intervals. Morris was the next man to depart as he top-edged one straight to Bhuvneshwar. Bumrah soon picked up his second wicket as Andile Phehlukwayo was adjudged LBW, thanks to the review taken by India. Both Morris and Phehlukwayo made 4 runs each. Bhuvneshwar then came in the picture as he picked up the 8th and 9th wicket, Rabada (5) and Morkel (0) respectively, on successive balls. Bhuvneshwar could not complete his hat-trick though as Imran Tahir slashed the ball down to thirdman.

 

Duminy was stranded at one end as he tried to build a partnership with his departing partners. South Africa failed to play out their quota of overs and their innings ended on 191 in 44.3 overs. Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah picked up two wickets each with Ashwin, Jadeja and Pandya taking one each. SA lost 3 wickets in the form of run-outs. Quinton de Kock top-scored with his 53 at the top.

 

The chase:

 

With a small total of 192 to be chased, the Indian openers looked careful at the start. Both Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan got their eyes in, in the first two overs. Rohit then struck Rabada for a four and a six on the fifth and sixth ball of the third over to open the shackles. Next over, Dhawan deposited a six off Morkel’s bowling as India suddenly looked confident. At the end of 5 overs, India were 23/0.

 

But Rohit (12) departed in the sixth over as he tried to up the ante, only to edge one off Morkel. De Kock completed a good catch behind the stumps. Was that the wicket that South Africa wanted? But Dhawan, who has been in a glorious form in CT17, continued to play his effortless shots.

 

Virat Kohli was the next man in and the Indian captain, after his failure against Sri Lanka, was eager to make a point. After taking time to settle, Kohli played an outstanding straight drive which went for a six over mid-off. Dhawan was milking runs at the other end with his handsome shots. At the end of 15 overs, India were 65/1.

 

AB introduced their main man, Imran Tahir, in the 17th over but the leg spinner could not provide the breakthrough. Both batsmen negotiated the spin well and played the ball on its merit. Dhawan struck two fours off successive balls to let Tahir know 'who’s the boss here'. The partnership continued to grow with the target looking more achievable after every passing over. At the end of 22nd over, India were 102/1 with Dhawan batting on 49 and Kohli on 39.

Kohli struck two glorious boundaries off Morkel to pile the misery on South Africa. On the other hand, Dhawan got to yet another fifty in the tournament with a four & became the highest run scorer in this edition of Champions Trophy. Both batsmen kept the scoreboard ticking by rotating the strike & picking the boundaries that also got their 100-run stand. At the end of 27 overs, India were 131/1 with absolutely no pressure in their chase.

 

In the next over, Kohli followed Dhawan & brought up his second fifty of the tournament. Meanwhile, Dhawan was in no mood to stop as he struck two fours off Morris. Tahir was brought back into the attack & he removed Dhawan for a brilliant 78. Yuvraj walked in to join the captain & along with Kohli looking to complete the job for India, they played sensible cricket to score 11 runs in the next 3 overs. At the end of 33 overs, India were 162/2 with Kohli batting on 62 & Yuvraj on 6.

 

JP Duminy joined Tahir with AB opting for spin from both the ends but they didn’t trouble the batsmen. Kohli hit two boundaries to move into the 70s & Yuvraj took his time to get his runs as India looked to finish the game. The game ended with a six from Yuvraj & the defending champions sealed their semi-final spot for the 5th time in 8 Champions Trophy editions.

'This is probably our best game we played so far', said Virat Kohli in the post-match presentation. Jasprit Bumrah was named Man of the Match for his figures of 2/28 from 8 overs. India will most-probably face Bangladesh (unless Sri Lanka or Pakistan move to no.1 position in Group B) in the semi-final & will be hopeful to continue their good form.

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