SA clinch nailbiting win
Robin Peterson struck 16 runs off the last over as South Africa claimed a nailbiting three-wicket win over India in their World Cup Group B match at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur, India, on Saturday.
Chasing 297 for victory South Africa began the last over, bowled by seamer Ashish Nehra, needing 13 runs to win.
Peterson (18 not out) kept his nerve to strike a four and a six off the first two balls before he ended the match in style with a four through the covers as the Proteas reached 300 for seven with two balls of their innings remaining.
That South Africa even had a chance to pull off the win was down to a stirring fightback from their bowlers after India had seemed set for a massive total after reaching 267 for one in the 40th over of their innings on the back of a scintillating century from Sachin Tendulkar.
But paceman Dale Steyn tore through India’s batting line-up as the hosts lost nine wickets for just 29 runs to be dismissed with eight balls of their innings remaining.
Steyn was at the heart of the collapse as he ended with five for 50 off 9.4 overs, a wonderful return after he had conceded 34 runs off his first four overs.
"For 15 overs up front we took an absolute beating but for 75 we played some incredible cricket," said South Africa skipper Graeme Smith who was criticised last weekend for not being able to chase down a 172-run target to beat England.
"Chasing 300 on that deck, second innings was a hell of an effort from the guys and I think we're all pretty speechless at the moment."
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni backed his decision to bring back Nehra for the final over but he said the batsmen had earlier lost their way in front of a huge home crowd.
"You don't play for the crowds. They always want you to hit sixes and fours but if you lose quite a few wickets in the powerplay or with overs to spare, it's always better that the batsmen play the overs, delay your slog a bit and get maybe a par score and don't look for that extra 20 or 25 runs," he said.
Tendulkar had raced to 111 off 101 balls, his 48th one-day international century, as he and Virender Sehwag gave India a stunning start with a first-wicket partnership of 142 off 107 balls.
Sehwag was his usual aggressive self as he pummelled 12 fours in his 66-ball innings of 73 as the opening pair took full advantage of a perfect batting wicket and some wayward bowling from the Proteas.
Sehwag’s destructive knock was ended when he became leg-spinner Faf du Plessis’s first international wicket when the batsman chopped a delivery back onto his stumps.
However, Gautam Gambhir joined Tendulkar and the pair continued to add to South Africa’s misery with a second-wicket partnership of 125 as the hosts looked set for a total in excess of 350 runs.
Tendulkar reached three figures off 92 balls while Gambhir scored 69 but the stand was broken when Tendulkar, after helping himself to eight fours and three sixes, sliced a Morne Morkel delivery to point to start India’s slide.
Gambhir followed one run later, caught at mid-off off Steyn, before the same bowler had Yusuf Pathan caught for a duck in the covers.
Yuvraj Singh (12) and Virat Kohli (two) fell in quick succession before Steyn, bowling full and straight, polished off the tail as he bowled Harbhajan Singh (three) and Munaf Patel (nought) while he had Nehra (nought) caught in the covers.
South Africa’s run chase was built on an 86-run second-wicket stand between Hashim Amla (61) and Jacques Kallis (69).
Amla was caught behind off a delivery from off-spinner Harbhajan while Kallis was run out as South Africa slipped to 173 for three.
AB de Villiers kept the Proteas in the hunt with 52 off 39 balls before he fell to Harbhajan when he holed out to deep midwicket as South Africa suffered a middle-order collapse to stutter to 247 for six after 44 overs.
But Johan Botha struck some lusty blows in scoring 23 off 15 balls before Faf du Plessis (25 not out) and Peterson took the match to the last over and the thrilling finish.
Harbhajan bowled well to finish with three for 53 while left-arm quick Zaheer Khan troubled most of the South Africa batsmen to pick up one for 43 off 10 overs.
The win moves South Africa to third in Group B behind India and West Indies. The Proteas next match is against Ireland on Tuesday while India take on West Indies on March 20.
India - Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk, capt), Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel.
South Africa - Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Morne van Wyk (wk), Johan Botha, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel.