Jasprit Bumrah’s pace onslaught helped India inflict a six-wicket defeat on South Africa to leave the Proteas’ World Cup chances hanging by a thread.
Bumrah’s masterful two for 35 heaped yet more misery on injury-hit South Africa, who mustered just 227 for nine to open a World Cup with three straight losses for the first time.
Bumrah was hailed as the world’s best bowler by India great Sachin Tendulkar last month, and the 25-year-old lived up to that tag in spades at the Hampshire Bowl.
Rohit Sharma struck an unbeaten 122 as India coasted to victory with 15 balls to spare and opened their campaign in convincing style – leaving South Africa realistically needing six wins from as many matches to stand any chance of making the semi-finals.
The tournament’s new round-robin group format could now leave South Africa facing a string of dead rubbers, unless they can turn their form upside down in a mere matter of days. Lose to the West Indies in Southampton on Monday and the Proteas will surely find a place in the last four out of reach.
Yuzvendra Chahal claimed four for 51 as India caused plenty of spin problems but two of those wickets were gifts – leaving Bumrah the pick of India’s attack.
An 18-year-old Bumrah jumped from B-grade cricket to the Mumbai Indians six years ago on the strength of one over of sheer pace. Now the combative seamer has opened his World Cup career in unforgiving fashion, with India reminding everyone how to dominate a match from the field.
Bumrah sent Hashim Amla and Quinton De Kock packing as India reduced South Africa to 24 for two, before Chahal dismissed Rassie Van Der Dussen and Proteas captain Faf Du Plessis in quick succession too.
Du Plessis shook off a nasty bang on the finger to muster 38, but that still proved wholly inadequate as South Africa limped through their innings.
Kuldeep Yadav accounted for JP Duminy leg before, then Chahal caught and bowled David Miller.
Andile Phehlukwayo flexed some muscle but he, too, departed all too soon, stumped after an innocuous straight ball from Chahal.
Chris Morris’ brisk 42 and Kagiso Rabada’s unbeaten 31 edged South Africa’s score closer to respectability but India were still left with a relatively easy chase.
They scored extremely sluggishly early in an overly-safe approach and a fired-up Rabada removed Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, while De Kock’s impressive snap catch off Phehlukwayo did for captain Virat Kohli, who had to slope off with just 18.
Sharma was able to bat for time and duly brought up his century, while MS Dhoni proved typically measured until skying the ball straight back to Morris for 34.
Miller had dropped an easy chance when Sharma skied Rabada on 107, but all that proved immaterial as India eased home. India skipper Kohli hailed Bumrah’s performance and believes the Ahmedabad-born paceman has the game’s top batsmen bamboozled.
“He can nick you off on any wicket and he has that belief,” said Kohli.
“When you see batsmen clueless against him, and he’s actually rushing people. To get guys out like that, just rushing them a bit, it’s a great thing and it’s a testament to his hard work. He understands that this is his time and he’s making the most of it. He’s going to be a massive factor for us here.”
South Africa were left to lick their wounds but paceman Morris insisted they still have the wherewithal to conjure the six straight victories they will need to stand any chance of reaching the last four.
“It’s pretty simple: lose three in a row at the World Cup, and you need to win every game from now on in,” said Morris.
“But the guys know what needs to be done, they are disappointed and a little bit angry.
“It’s pretty simple: win the next six and crack on.”