Dominant India crush SA after Kohli’s record-equalling 49th ton on 35th birthday
Kolkata: On his 35th birthday in one of the game’s iconic venues packed with the most exuberant fans, Virat Kohli equalled his idol Sachin Tendulkar’s record of most ODI centuries with his 49th hundred, laying the foundation for India’s 243-run pummelling of South Africa in the World Cup on Sunday.
This, perhaps, was written in the stars.
Entering the Eden Gardens after a run of seven successive wins by his team, Kohli was up against an in-form and ambitious South African side seeking to shed the choker’s tag and win its maiden World Cup title.
But, by the time the game got over, South Africa were left bruised and battered after being bowled out for 83 in 27.1 overs as India consolidated its top place in the pecking order, with Kohli finally matching Tendulkar after the whole country waited for weeks in anticipation.
Attempting to steel the thunder from Kohli was Ravindra Jadeja, who ended with excellent figures of 5/33.
Set an imposing target of 327 after Kohli’s 121-ball 101 not out, Shreyas Iyer’s fluent 87-ball 77 and some fireworks towards the end by Suryakumar Yadav and Jadeja, the Proteas crumbled like a pack of cards.
India captain Rohit Sharma also deserves special mention for his 24-ball 40, putting South Africa on the back foot straightaway with his attacking intent.
When the Proteas’ turn to bat came, the pitch remained pretty much the same but the Indian bowling was again at a different level altogether, running through the side with the same relentlessness and potency they have been doing through the tournament.
South Africa were in dire straits in no time, tottering at 40/5 and then 67/7 as India had the match all wrapped up.
The menacing pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, and Mohammed Shami was once again on the money before star all-rounder Jadeja did the star turn with his turn, bounce and accuracy.
Not content with his cameo with the bat (29 off 15 balls), Jadeja got the ball to behave in whichever way he wanted it to and finished with fine figures.
The first to go was the in-from Quinton de Kock, who got an inside edge against Siraj after smashing him for a boundary.
Losing De Kock was a big blow for the South Africans, and skipper Temba Bavuma too fell cheaply to continue his quest for one substantial knock in the showpiece, bowled by a beautiful turning delivery from Jadeja.
South Africa were three down inside the powerplay as Shami, with a good length ball that jagged away off the seam, induced an edge from Aiden Markram and KL Rahul completed a low catch.
Rassie van der Dussen thought he was saved when Shami’s loud appeal for an lbw failed to impress the on-field umpire but the Indian seamer and his wicket-keeping colleague Rahul’s decision to review was vindicated when the technology showed that the ball would go on to hit the middle and leg stump.
South Africa bat deep but Jadeja, meanwhile, snared Heinrich Klaasen (1) and David Miller (11) to inch closer to a massive win, which was achieved when Kuldeep Yadav bowled Lungi Ngidi.
The match was over in South Africa’s 28th over and with a lot of time still left to play.
Earlier, the setting was ideal for Kohli to equal Tendulkar’s record after missing the magic three-figure mark more than once in the tournament.
He was dismissed for 95 and 88 against New Zealand and Sri Lanka but the Indian run-machine did not disappoint the ecstatic full house at the Eden Gardens.
The monkey was finally off his back in the 49th over when Kohli gently pushed Kagiso Rabada for a single. The century came off 119 balls with 10 fours, showing that Kohli toiled hard for his runs.
For Kohli, the milestone ton came in 277 innings, while Tendulkar had brought up his 49th ODI century in 452 innings. A comparison, though, is not fair considering the different playing conditions in the two eras.
The relief was evident as he took his helmet off, kissed his bat, and saluted the crowd that gave him a standing ovation.
Rohit went about his business in his own inimitable style while Shubhman Gill (23 off 24) was cautious as the two provided a flying start to the hosts after electing to bat.
Iyer played the perfect foil for Kohli before Jadeja played a crucial role in taking India past the 300-run mark.
Barring Keshav Maharaj who bowled his full quota at a stretch, no other bowler could create an impact on an Eden wicket that became slower as the game progressed and aided spin.
At a venue where he scored the ODI world record score of 264, Rohit smashed bowlers all around the park before Bavuma’s terrific catch at mid-off halted his innings.
Rohit smashed Rabada powerfully through covers, but the South Africa skipper held firmly to the ball in front of his eyes.
India’s turbo-charged start by Rohit was halted by Kagiso Rabada’s wicket-maiden first over, and Maharaj produced a classical left-arm spin to remove the in-form Gill.