Rudra Pratap Singh extended a tradition of an Indian left-arm fastmedium bowler making a stunning impact in a big game at the Kingsmead Cricket Ground as Team India came up with a high-octane performance for the second night running to breeze into a semifinal date with Australia in the ICC World Twenty20 with a superb 37–run victory over South Africa.
For the second night running, India was able to channelise its emotions and etch a stunning victory as it raced to the top of Group E and pushed the home side out of the tournament, carrying New Zealand into the semifinals after a triple tie. There was an enormous display of self-belief as India readied itself for a clash with Australia on Saturday.
From a dismal 61 for four in the 11th over, India finished with a fighting 153 for five in 20 overs. It rallied through an 85-run partnership between a creative Rohit Sharma (50 not out, 40 balls, seven fours, two sixes) and a steady Mahendra Singh Dhoni (45, 33 balls, four four, one six). It still left the team with much work to do when defending the score.
Led by RP Singh, the bowlers and fielders did a terrific job of that. If RP Singh finished with four for 13 in four overs, Sreesanth and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh grabbed two wickets each while Irfan Pathan was at his economical best and Joginder Sharma filled his role as the fourth seamer adequately.
Four years ago, Ashish Nehra had demolished England in an ICC World Cup game here with a fine exhibition of swing bowling at Kingsmead. He had finished with figures of six for 23 in his 10 overs. Tonight, it was 21-year-old RP Singh's turn to leave his imprint on the ground as he finished with four for 13 in his four overs.
India turned out some attacking fielding in support of the bowlers. It seemed almost as if they were paying a tribute to the side's best fielder, Yuvraj Singh who was out of the game with a sore elbow. Karthik's catch at second slip to dismiss Graeme Smith was a stunner, flying to his left to get both his hands to the ball that was screaming past him.
Not long after, Rohit Sharma's fielding skills came to the fore. And it fetched him the man of the match award. Mark Boucher played RP Singh to the off side and set off for a single. The young Indian charged from his position on the 30-yard circle at cover, swooped on the ball and flicked it on to the stumps, catching the dangerous Justin Kemp short of his crease.
South Africa lost its way under the pressure that India mounted on it. And it was a pity that Shaun Pollock's efforts with the new ball earlier in the day went waste.He does not need much more to inspire him than a new white ball, a lively pitch and lights at his home turf, the Kingsmead Cricket Ground. The Indian cricketers have known this for a while but were served a reminder in a four-over spell.
Rohit Sharma, batting for the first time in the tournament, led India's quest for a moderate score that would give its bowlers a chance to stop South Africa. He overcame nerves to play some aggressive and innovative strokes and shared a battling stand with Dhoni (44, 33 balls, four fours, one six).
Seeking a win over the formidable home side to make the semifinal grade, India suffered a reverse even before a ball was bowled when its vice-captain Yuvraj Singh pulled out of the game with a sore left elbow. With a top finisher missing from the ranks, Dhoni held himself back to the No. 6 slot and was able to haul India back on rails to finish with 153 for five in 20 overs.
This is beautiful, bring on Australia, an Indian fan wrote on SMS from Singapore.
The team is on a roll.