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CARDIFF: No Sehwag. No Gambhir. No Tendulkar. No Yuvraj. No problem.
Young guns Shikhar Dhawan and Ravindra Jadeja strutted their stuff as India thumped injury-hit South Africa by 26 runs to get the Champions Trophy underway at Sophia Gardens here, on Thursday.
Dhawan's maiden ODI hundred, Rohit Sharma's 65 and Jadeja's rollicking unbeaten 47 propelled India to an imposing 331/7, after which their motley collection of slower bowlers made life difficult for the chasers, ending South Africa's ordeal on 305 in 50 overs.
His scintillating 29-ball cameo apart, Jadeja claimed two wickets with his left-arm spin, was as economical as a ration card, affected a crucial run out and also took a catch, repaying the faith that skipper MS Dhoni has often invested in him.
Off-spinner R. Ashwin was also a picture of parsimony, conceding a mere 47 in his 10 overs, while the seamers - Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar - scalped two apiece.
Sir Ravi rips it
In pursuit of a big target, South Africa were jolted by the early dismissals of Colin Ingram and Hashim Amla, but were steadied by Robin Peterson (68) and AB de Villiers (70). The pair had added 124 in quick time when Jadeja engineered another mini collapse.
The Saurashtra all-rounder ran-out Peterson with a direct hit from midwicket, trapped JP Duminy leg-before and snaffled the dangerous de Villiers at short-leg off Umesh Yadav.
David Miller’s unfortunate run-out after a mix-up with Faf du Plessis left South Africa staring defeat on 188/6, needing 144 to win in 17-odd overs. du Plessis and Ryan McLaren sought a course-correction with a string of boundaries, but the former mistimed Ishant Sharma to Suresh Raina at mid-off.
McLaren's valiant, unbeaten 61-ball 71, which included a ferocious attack against Ishant Sharma, reduced the margin of victory and may well turn out to be crucial if things come down to Net Run Rate at the end of the league stage.
Injuries and missed chances
It was Dhawan’s 94-ball 114 that enabled India to make the most of South Africa’s extended crock list. The Proteas started the game without Dale Steyn and suffered another blow when Morne Morkel hobbled out without competing his sixth over.
South Africa erred by bowling too short at India after sending them in and were also guilty of squandering several chances in the field. Dhawan, who partnered Rohit for a 127-run opening partnership, was handed at least three reprieves: dropped catches at the boundary on 27 and 70 and a missed stumping by de Villiers when he had scored 102.
The Delhi southpaw brought up his first ODI century in 80 balls and was particularly severe on Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who was creamed merciless to various parts of the ground.
For a brief phase, however, India fell prey to their usual shortcomings and lost Virat Kohli (31), Dinesh Karthik (14), Dhawan and Suresh Raina (9) with alarming rapidity.
It took another magical act from Jadeja to haul India well over and beyond the 300-run mark, as he masterminded 40 from the last four overs.
This was India’s third successive win in the tournament, including the twin victories over Sri Lanka and Australia in the practice games.
Fantasy Cricket: Did you have Dhawan in your team?
Scorecard | Match pictures