Dhawan sparkles as India thrash Proteas

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India announced themselves as genuine contenders to defend their World Cup title on Sunday by humbling South Africa's vaunted pace attack before bowling out the Proteas for an emphatic 130-run victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

In front of a heaving crowd of 86,000, opener Shikhar Dhawan struck a sparkling 137 and Ajinkya Rahane an explosive 79 to fire India to a mammoth 307-7 and ensure their opponents would need a record chase at the stadium to win.

India were then outstanding in the field, sharing the wickets and running out two batsmen as South Africa were skittled for 177 with 10 overs to spare, losing their last seven wickets for 44 runs.

It was India's first win against South Africa at the World Cup after three previous losses.

Though the match may have little consequences for their respective campaigns, India, roared on by a blue-clad, flag-waving army of fans will have reaped a huge confidence boost from downing the highly-fancied South Africans following their emotional opening win over Pakistan.

Melbourne resident Dhawan's sparkling ton anchored century-plus partnerships with Virat Kohli (46) and Rahane as AB de Villiers' men toiled on a steamy day in the field after losing the toss.

In an uncharacteristically clumsy fielding display, the Proteas dropped three catches, including a sharp chance to Hashim Amla at backward point that reprieved Dhawan on 53.

Adding to their Proteas' pain was an apparent hamstring injury to seamer Vernon Philander who bowled just four overs.

India by contrast were positively South African in their fielding, with Mohit and India captain and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni combining to run out de Villiers for 30, an important breakthrough to end a 68-run partnership with Faf du Plessis.

Du Plessis was unable to dig in after raising his half-century, miscuing a slog straight to Dhawan at mid-off to be out for 55 and leave his team reeling at 133-4.

JP Duminy (6) and David Miller (22) followed quickly, the latter run out by an excellent throw from Umesh Yadav at square leg. The South African tail then expired quickly.

Ravichandran Ashwin finished with 3-41 to lead the India bowling, with fast bowler Mohammed Shami and medium pacer Mohit grabbing two wickets each.

South Africa's selectors dropped Farhaan Behardien in favour of Wayne Parnell and the move back-fired with the fast-bowling all-rounder conceding 85 runs from his nine overs.

Parnell would eventually dismiss Dhawan in the 44th over after the 29-year-old skied a pull shot to Amla at long leg, having raised his seventh ODI century.

The faith in Imran Tahir was better-placed, however, with the leg-spinner capturing Kohli's wicket with a full toss.

Rahane bashed three sixes in a glittering 60-ball knock before being trapped lbw by Steyn with four overs to spare.

Scoreboard:

India

R. Sharma run out (de Villiers) 0
S. Dhawan c Amla b Parnell 137
V. Kohli c du Plessis b Tahir 46
A. Rahane lbw b Steyn 79
S. Raina c sub (Rossouw) b Morkel 6
M. Dhoni c de Kock b Morkel 18
R. Jadeja run out (de Villiers) 2
R. Ashwin not out 5
Mohammad Shami not out 4
Extras: (lb2, nb2, w6) 10
Total (7 wkts, 50 overs) 307
Did not bat: Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav.
Fall of wickets: 1-9 (R. Sharma), 2-136 (Kohli), 3-261 (Dhawan), 4-269 (Raina), 5-278 (Rahane), 6-284 (Jadeja), 7-302 (Dhoni)
Bowling: Steyn 10-1-55-1; Philander 4-1-19-0; Duminy 7-0-39-0 (1w); Morkel 10-0-59-2; Tahir 10-0-48-1 (1w); Parnell 9-0-85-1 (2nb, 4w)

South Africa
Hashim Amla c Shami b M. Sharma 22
Q. de Kock c Kohli b Shami 7
F. du Plessis c Dhawan b M. Sharma 55
AB de Villiers run out (M. Sharma) 30
D. Miller run out (Yadav) 22
JP Duminy c Raina b Ashwin 6
W. Parnell not out 17
V. Philander lbw b Ashwin 0
D. Steyn c Dhawan b Shami 1
M. Morkel b Ashwin 2
Imran Tahir lbw b Jadeja 8
Extras: (lb1, w6) 7
Total (all out, 40.2 overs) 177
Fall of wickets: 1-12 (de Kock), 2-40 (Amla), 3-108 (de Villiers), 4-133 (du Plessis), 5-147 (Duminy), 6-153 (Miller), 7-153 (Philander), 8-158 (Steyn), 9-161 (Morkel), 10-177 (Tahir).
Bowling: Yadav 6-0-34-0 (1w); Shami 8-1-30-2 (2w); M. Sharma 7-0-31-2 (2w), Jadeja 8.2-0-37-1 (1w); Ashwin 10-0-41-3; Raina 1-0-3-0

Result: India won by 130 runs

Toss:
India

South Africa innings

India beat South Africa by 130 runs for their first World Cup win in four meetings at the MCG.

Chasing a target of 308, Proteas floundered against some brilliant fielding and bowling to be dismissed for 177 with India romping home with nearly 10 overs to spare.

South Africa have been bowled out for 177 in 40.2 overs with Tahir being the last man out.

Imran Tahir lbw b Jadeja 8 (10b 1x4 0x6)

Ashwin strikes castling Morkel who attempts to sweep only to find his stumps rattled. SA 161-9, 37.2 overs.

Morne Morkel b Ashwin 2 (5b 0x4 0x6)

Eight down as Steyn departs cutting Shami straight to Dhawan at point. SA 158-8, 36.2 overs.

Dale Steyn c Jadeja b Mohammed Shami 1 (7b 0x4 0x6)

Ashwin strikes trapping Philander leg before with South Africa losing the decision review. SA 153-7, 34 overs.

Vernon Philander lbw b Ashwin 0 (2b 0x4 0x6)

Proteas are imploding as Miller fails to beat a superb throw from Yadav. SA 153-6, 33.4 overs.

David Miller run out 22 (23b 2x4 0x6)

Ashwin strikes as Duminy's attempted reverse sweep pops up to the slip fielder. SA 147-5, 31.3 overs.

JP Duminy c Raina b Ashwin 6 (15b 0x4 0x6)

Mohit strikes again removing the dangerous Faf du Plessis who miscues a pull to mid-off. SA 133-4, 28.1 overs.

Faf du Plessis c Dhawan b Mohit Sharma 55 (71b 5x4 0x6)

Huge blow for South Africa as AB is run out failing to beat Mohit's throw returning for a second. SA 108-3, 22.5 overs.

AB de Villiers run out 30 (38b 3x4 0x6)

The 50 partnership between AB and Faf comes in 58 balls. SA 92-2, 20 overs.

Amla's unventful knock comes to an end holing out a short ball from Mohit to Shami at long leg. SA 40-2, 10.2 overs.

Hashim Amla c Mohammed Shami b Mohit Sharma 22 (28b 2x4 0x6)

Amla survives being run out. SA 30-1, 9 overs.

Shami strikes as de Kock perishes hitting to mid-off where Kohli takes a good catch. SA 12-1, 3.3 overs.

Quinton de Kock c Kohli b Mohammed Shami 7 (15b 1x4 0x6)

Quinton top edges a bouncer from Yadav for a boundary as South Africa begin the record run chase of 308 at MCG. #cwc15 #IndvSA #E247cwc

India innings

Opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan scored a sparkling century to frustrate South Africa's vaunted pace attack as India set the Proteas 308 to win their World Cup clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.

At a stadium festooned with India flags and heaving with blue-clad supporters, Melbourne resident Dhawan's 137 anchored century partnerships with Virat Kohli (46) and Ajinkya Rahane (79) as AB de Villiers' men toiled on a steamy day in the field.

In a big blow for the Proteas, seamer Vernon Philander spent time off the field with an apparent hamstring injury and bowled just four overs.

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and had little hesitation sending his team in to bat on a drop-in wicket that offered little succour for the South Africa pacemen.

With the icy gaze and slicked-back hair of a James Bond villain, Dale Steyn did his best to soften up India's openers and his second over brought the wicket of Rohit Sharma.

In a horrible mix-up with Dhawan, Rohit was a foot from his ground when De Villiers threw down the stumps in an inspired piece of fielding, the opener sent back stumbling at the non-striker's end by his hesitant team mate.

Dhawan survived a torrid spell of short-pitched bowling from Steyn and steadily built the Indian total with Kohli before flaying the South African attack from the second power-play.

Rated one of the world's top fielding sides, the Proteas rued a missed chance to dismiss Dhawan for 53, when a diving Hashim Amla grassed a rocketed cut shot at backward point.

South Africa's selectors dropped Farhaan Behardien in favour of Wayne Parnell and the move back-fired with the fast-bowling all-rounder conceding 85 runs from his nine overs.

Parnell would eventually dismiss Dhawan in the 44th over when the 29-year-old skied a pull shot to Amla at long leg.

The faith in Imran Tahir was better-placed, however, with the leg-spinner capturing Kohli's wicket with a full toss that the number three batsman bashed straight to Faf du Plessis at short midwicket.

That only brought Rahane to the crease, however, and the number four joined Dhawan in plundering the South Africans.

Dhawan raised thunderous cheers from the pro-India crowd when he raised his seventh ODI hundred, cutting to the fence with his 14th four.

He later left Steyn fuming by belting the fast man over his head for six and finessing a glorious ramp shot for four behind the wicket off the next ball.

Rahane bashed three sixes in a glittering 60-ball knock before being trapped lbw by Steyn at 278-5 with four overs to spare.

Dhoni scored 18 to push his team past 300, the Indians eventually finishing on 307 for seven.

South Africa pegged back India in the last 10 overs after a magnificent century by Shikhar Dhawan (137) and Ajinkya Rahane (79) saw them make 307-7.

Morkel bounces and Dhoni perishes getting a feather touch to be caught behind. Ind 302-7, 49 overs.

MS Dhoni c de Kock b Morkel 18 (11b 3x4 0x6)

Dhoni is turning it on smashing three consecutive boundaries off Parnell. Ind 297-6, 48 overs.

AB de Villiers claims his second 'wicket' with a direct hit. Ind 284-6, 47.2 overs.

Ravindra Jadeja run out 2 (4b 0x4 0x6)

Steyn has the last laugh after being hit for a six trapping Rahane leg before. Ind 278-5, 46 overs.

Ajinkya Rahane lbw b Steyn 79 (60b 7x4 3x6)

Morkel bangs it in short and Raina bites the bait miscuing a pull to the midwicket fielder. Ind 269-4, 44.5 overs.

Suresh Raina c sub (Rossouw) b Morkel 6 (5b 1x4 0x6)

Dhawan magnificent knock comes to an end miscuing a pull to Amla at long leg. Ind 261-3, 43.3 overs.

Shikhar Dhawan c Amla b Parnell 137 (146b 16x4 2x6)

Rahane completes his ninth ODI half century off 40 balls. Ind 237-2, 41 overs.

The 100-run partnership between Dhawan and Rahane comes off just 83 balls.

Dhawan is turning it on beginning the assault in the last 10 swinging Morkel for a maximum.

India have blasted 44 in the Batting Powerplay. Ind 227-2, 40 overs.

Rahane lofts Morkel back over his head and unleashes a scorching cover drive to the fence. Ind 214-2, 39 overs.

Rahane has raced to 40 from 32 balls. Ind 206-2, 38 overs.

Rahane hammers two consecutive boundaries off Duminy in the first over of Batting Powerplay. Ind 195-2, 36 overs.

Dhawan cracks Parnell through the offside cordon for a boundary to complete his seventh ODI century and cement his return to form. Ind 183-2, 35 overs.

Rahane drives Parnell for a boundary finding the gap on the off with a superb square drive.

Rahane gets going cracking two consecutive boundaries off Parnell. Ind 170-2, 32 overs.

Tahir strikes as Kohli pulls him straight to Faf du Plessis at short midwicket. Ind 136-2, 27.1 overs.

Virat Kohli c du Plessis b Imran Tahir 46 (60b 3x4 0x6)

Kohli unleashes a superb on drive past Steyn to the fence. Ind 136-1, 27 overs.

There is no stopping Dhawan finding another from an outside edge to third man off Tahir. Ind 127-1, 26 overs.

Dhawan is turning it on smashing consecutive boundaries off Parnell. Ind 113-1, 24 overs.

Dhawan is on song pulling Duminy to square for a boundary. Ind 103-1, 23 overs.

DROPPED!
Dhawan (54) has been dropped by Amla at gully off Parnell. Ind 83-1, 20 overs.

Dhawan cracks Parnell through point for his eighth boundary to complete his 13th ODI fifty off 70 balls. Ind 77-1, 18 overs.

Dhawan has pulled a short ball from Morkel to square leg. Ind 67-1, 16 overs.

The 50 partnership between Dhawan and Kohli has come off 71 balls. Ind 61-1, 15 overs.

Dhawan looks in great touch punching Morkel down the ground. Ind 56-1, 14 overs.

Kohli clips Morkel to the midwicket fence. Ind 45-1, 12 overs.

Morkel comes into the attack and Dhawan slams a short ball over the infield for a boundary to point. Ind 36-1, 10 overs.

Kohli announces his arrival by punching Philander through the covers for a boundary. Ind 29-1, 8 overs.

Dhawan cracks Steyn through the covers for another boundary. Ind 19-1, 7 overs.

Philander sends down a maiden to new batsman Kohli. Ind 9-1, 4 overs.

AB de Villiers draws first blood with a direct hit to beat a diving Rohit who was off the blocks quickly but fails to return back quickly. Ind 9-1, 2.5 overs.

Rohit Sharma run out 0 (6b 0x4 0x6)

Dhawan opens India's account by flicking Philander to the midwicket fence. Ind 5-0, 2 overs

Excellent first over by Steyn to Rohit which is a maiden. Ind 0-0, 1 over.

India have won the toss and are batting first against South Africa.

Teams

India - S Dhawan, RG Sharma, V Kohli, AM Rahane, SK Raina, MS Dhoni, RA Jadeja, R Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, UT Yadav, MM Sharma

South Africa - HM Amla, Q de Kock, F du Plessis, AB de Villiers, DA Miller, JP Duminy, WD Parnell, VD Philander, DW Steyn, M Morkel, Imran Tahir

Preview

Indian vice-captain Virat Kohli predicts an "exciting" tussle between his team's batsmen and South Africa's bowlers during Sunday's World Cup blockbuster at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

"Both sides are balanced, so it all depends on how you play on the day," the leading Indian batsman said ahead of the key Pool B match that will almost certainly assure the winner a place in the quarter-finals.

Kohli, deputising for skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Saturday's pre-match media conference, said the hard pitch with extra bounce at the MCG will be a challenge for the two teams.

"They have good fast bowlers and we have the batsmen," he said. "So it should be an exciting contest between their bowlers and our batsmen.

"The key will be to sustain the momentum for the whole innings. It is not easy to clear boundaries at a big ground like the MCG, so trying to step it up towards the end won't be easy.

"We need a calculated approach to batting."

Kohli said it was an advantage having played alongside the fearsome Steyn and prolific AB de Villiers for the same Royal Challengers Bangalore franchise in the Indian Premier League.

"Dale is a good friend, I get the biggest hug from him when we meet," he said. "But when we get on the field, he will look to dominate me and I will try to dominate him.

"There is a good reason why he is one of the best fast bowlers in the game and why AB is a world-class batsmen. We will have plans for every player. But some players have the ability to play the opposite of what we have planned for them."

Kohli said he was excited at the prospect of playing in front of an estimated crowd of over 80,000 fans at the MCG, almost 80 per cent of whom were expected to be Indian fans.

"I just love playing in a full stadium," he said. "It is very satisfying when one plays well and makes people happy. It is not always that you will succeed, but if you do, others will be delighted.

"It excites me to be playing here. A win here will give us immense self-belief that we can beat a good side. If we get over this hurdle it will be a huge morale-booster for the tougher games ahead.

"But I am not one to look too far ahead. It is better to take it one match at a time. We just have to play well as a unit. There is nothing to prove to anyone."

India have never beaten South Africa in the World Cup, losing all three times they met in 1992, 1999 and 2011. But Dhoni's men overcame the loss four years ago to lift the title.

Match-winner

The spin proficiency of the Indian batsmen notwithstanding, South Africa will play leg-spinner Imran Tahir in Sunday's World Cup match in Melbourne, Proteas skipper AB de Villiers said on Saturday.

"He's been one of our best bowlers over the last two years. There's no way that, unless there's some funny injury over the next 24 hours, that he's not going to play," De Villiers told reporters at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

"I see him as a match-winner against any team in the world."

It would be Tahir's first one-day international against India and his captain assured the 35-year-old he would not be thrown in the deep end.

"It's a matter of bowling him at the right times, and that's my job, to make sure he bowls at the right times in order to give him the best opportunity to win us games, and that's what he's best at doing," De Villiers said.

Facade

India appear relaxed and refreshed, and South Africa unsettled, ahead of their World Cup clash on Sunday, but the facade could be short-lived when the two Pool B heavyweights take the field.

Some 80,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground are in for a treat in the day-night match that will almost certainly assure the winner a place in the quarter-finals from Pool B.

Both teams won their opening games, defending champions India thrashing Pakistan by 76 runs in Adelaide last Sunday and South Africa beating Zimbabwe by 62 runs in Hamilton earlier the same day.

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The margin of victories were deceptive because while India outplayed their arch-rivals, South Africa were severely tested with both bat and ball by their lowly-ranked rivals.

The Proteas were wobbling at 83 for four before being bailed out by a brilliant record stand of 256 for the fifth wicket between century-makers David Miller and JP Duminy.

Zimbabwe then made a valiant chase of 339 for four, reaching 191 for two in the 33rd over before the last eight wickets fell for 86 runs to hand South Africa full points.

Leg-spinner Imran Tahir's three for 36 hid a disappointing outing for pace spearhead Dale Steyn, whose nine overs cost 64 runs for one wicket.

It was later revealed Steyn was suffering from sinusitis, which continued for so long that he missed training till Wednesday, but now appears to be returning to top gear.

South Africa need Steyn to fire to contain the deep Indian batting, against whom he took five for 50 the last time the two sides met in the World Cup in Nagpur four years ago.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men overcame that defeat to lift the title a fortnight later, but they will still be wary of what awaits them at the gigantic MCG on Sunday.

Having extended their World Cup domination over Pakistan to six matches in a row, India now face an adversary to whom they have lost all times in the premier 50-overs-a-side tournament.

The Indians spent a relaxed week in Melbourne since the high-profile clash against Pakistan, alternating between net sessions and rest days without publicly disclosing the likely line-up for the big game.

Media speculation of injuries to off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar were quickly dispelled by the team management, which announced that all 15 squad members were available.

India's former World Cup- winning coach Gary Kirsten, who is now a consultant with his native South Africa, will stress on exploiting India's weak bowling to counter the strong batting led by Virat Kohli.

Kirsten is one of six specialists on the coaching staff to help South Africa overcome the unwanted tag of being the best team never to have won the World Cup.

Besides chief coach Russell Domingo and Kirsten, the Proteas have three bowling coaches in Allan Donald, Charl Langeveldt and Claude Henderson and have also hired Australian Mike Hussey to provide inputs during the tournament.

The lone missing link is a psychologist and Domingo said he wanted the team to focus on cricketing skills.

"You can't be mentally strong but have bad skills," he said.

Domingo also did not believe his side had a psychological advantage over India because South Africa had not lost to them in the World Cup.

"India are the current world champions and a wonderful one-day side," he said. "Whatever has happened in the past in previous World Cups will count for very little on Sunday.

"It is going to be a big stage for some of our players who haven't experienced that type of atmosphere before. There's a lot you can take out of a good result against India."

Squads and officials:

India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohit Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Stuart Binny, Akshar Patel, Bhuvnneshwar Kumar, Ambati Rayadu.

South Africa (from): AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Farhaan Behardien, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Kyle Abbott, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Rilee Rossouw.

Umpires: Richard Kettleborough (ENG), Aleem Dar (PAK)
TV Umpire: Steve Davis (AUS)
Match referee: Jeff Crowe (NZL)
Weather forecast: Partly cloudy. Maximum temperature of 34 Celsius.

Head-to-head and World Cup records for India v South Africa for Sunday's World Cup match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground:

Matches: 70
India wins: 25
South Africa wins: 42
No result: 3

First meeting: November 10, 1991, Kolkata - India won by three wickets
Last meeting: December 11, 2013, Centurion - no result

World Cup matches - India 0 South Africa 3
- March 15, 1992, Adelaide - South Africa won by six wickets
India 180-6 in 30 overs (Mohammad Azharuddin 79, Kapil Dev 42, A. Donald 2-34, A. Kuiper 2-28); South Africa 181-4 in 29.1 overs (P. Kirsten 84, A. Hudson 53)

- May 15, 1999, Hove - South Africa won by four wickets
India 253-5 in 50 overs (S. Ganguly 97, R. Dravid 54, L. Klusener 3-66); South Africa 254-6 in 47.2 overs (J. Kallis 96, J. Rhodes 39, J. Srinath 2-69)

- March 12, 2011, Nagpur - South Africa won by three wickets
India 296 in 48.4 overs (S. Tendulkar 111, G. Gambhir 69, D. Steyn 5-50); South Africa 300-7 in 49.4 overs (H. Amla 61, J. Kallis 69, AB de Villiers 52, H. Singh 3-53)

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