Kolkata: Virat Kohli slammed a record 49th ton on his 35th birthday as Indian cricketers continued their fairy-tale World Cup show with a clinical 243-run decimation of a hapless South Africa in a top-of-the-table clash here on Sunday.
After their batters put up a daunting 326/5 before a capacity crowd at the iconic Eden Gardens, the host bowlers followed up by skittling out the Proteas for a pathetic 83 within 28 overs as India stretched their all-conquering run to eight games in the tournament so far.
An attacking start from Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill was supplemented by a brilliant ton from Kohli and an attacking fifty from Shreyas Iyer. Riding on some late blows from Suryakumar Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja, India finished with a 300-plus total.
On the field, South Africa showed good fight, plugging the flow of runs in the middle overs, but India were helped by a bright start and a strong finish.
With his 49th hundred, Kohli has now joined the legendary Sachin Tendulkar as the joint-highest century-makers in ODIs
Taking over from the willowers, Indian bowlers struck immediately with the new ball, accounting for South Africa’s top-order in the first Powerplay.
Ravindra Jadeja (5/33) took centre stage thereafter, picking regular wickets to derail the Proteas effort.
Mohammed Siraj struck for India early on, when he got Quinton de Kock played on in the very second over. The batter had just completed 1000 runs in Cricket World Cup, of the previous ball.
India pacers further upped the pressure by stringing together a series of dot balls. Understanding the amount of turn available in the wicket, Rohit Sharma employed Ravindra Jadeja early in the innings. The move brought immediate dividends, as Jadeja cleaned the stumps of Temba Bavuma.
And Mohammed Shami finished the Powerplay with yet another wicket, getting Aiden Markram (9) to nick one behind the wicket.
Disciplined bowling ensured India struck at regular intervals. Jadeja and Shami benefitted from sharp reviews that were taken on their behalf by Rohit.
When Jadeja cleaned up David Miller for 11, the South Africa chase was all but over. They were eventually bowled out in the 28th over.
Earlier, Indian batters were among the boundaries from the very first over, hitting eight fours in the first four overs. Rohit hit five of these boundaries.
He added another four and two beautiful sixes in the very next over, off Lungi Ngidi to lift India even further.
But the skipper’s aggressive takedown of the South Africa bowling lineup was eventually brought to an end in the sixth over. Rohit tried to take on Kagiso Rabada but was brilliantly caught by his opposite number, Temba Bavuma.
However, the run flow didn’t stop as Virat Kohli, celebrating his 35th birthday, came to the crease and continued going for his shots.
It took Keshav Maharaj’s excellence to dismiss Shubman Gill. He delivered a beauty which made Gill go towards the on-side and then beat his bat to trim the off-stump.
As the South African spinners started making better use of the wicket, the scoring opportunities for the Indian batters were reduced. From Gill’s wicket up until the 25-over mark, Kohli and Iyer scored only three more boundaries.
The shackles were broken in the 28th over when Iyer hit Tabraiz Shamsi for a towering six. A set of boundaries flew from his bat as India upped their rate to over six an over.
Kohli too picked pace, and India looked set for a total in excess of 300. However, Iyer’s dismissal in the 37th over slowed down India’s scoring rate.
The teams were tangled in a closely fought battle in the death overs, even as India tried to lift the scoring rate at the back of some attacking stroke-play from Suryakumar Yadav (22 from 13), while South Africa tried to pull things back with some tidy work in the field.
Big blows from Ravindra Jadeja helped India to 326/5, even as Kohli finished at 101 not out.
Earlier, Rohit Sharma won the toss and opted to bat first in Kolkata. Temba Bavuma too wanted to bat first. There was only one change in the South Africa setup, with Tabraiz Shamsi coming in for Gerald Coetzee.
India: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk), Temba Bavuma (c), Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi. UNI BM SSP