St Lucia (WI): India qualified for the Super Eight stage of the Twenty20 cricket World Cup as Suresh Raina’s maiden T20 hundred scripted team’s thrilling 14-run win over South Africa in a group C match on Sunday.
India escaped a late assault from the Protea batsmen to score their second successive win and topped their group.
Powered by Raina’s hundred, first by an Indian batsman in the shortest format, India posted a commanding 186 for five after invited to bat at Beausejourn stadium.
India’s Suresh Raina celebrates scoring a century during a Twenty20 Cricket World Cup match with South Africa in Gros Islet, St. Lucia, on Sunday. Aijaz Rahi / AP
India then just about managed to restrict their rivals to 172 for five, surviving a late blitzkrieg from the Protea batsmen, who did extremely well to get close to the target after a sluggish start.
Jacques Kallis (73, 3x4, 3x6) and Graeme Smith (36, 2x6) fought tooth and nail to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, raising 96 runs for the second wicket, but their effort wasn’t good enough to quell the Indian challenge.
De Villiers (31, 3x6) desperately threw his bat around towards the latter part of the innings, but the asking rate was far too high to scale.
Raina was the toast of Indian win, reaffirming that he is a dependable batsman when the going gets tough for his team.
He is only the third batsman to score a hundred in this format with the first two centuries coming from the bats of West Indies’ Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum of New Zealand.
Raina was sedate at the start, but when he got his eye in and assessed the wicket, he went hammer and tongs, smashing fours and sixes with relentless ease.
He took 42 balls to reach 50, but stepped on the gas pedal as the innings wore on. He barely needed 17 more balls to race to his maiden hundred in T20 cricket.
He virtually slaughtered the South Africa pace attack, which had held sway in the first six overs of the innings. Rory Langeveldt (2/48) and Albie Morkel (1/39) were treated with disdain. So was Morne Morkel.
The diminutive 24-year-old struck nine fours and five sixes and first raised 88 match-winning runs for the third wicket with Yuvraj Singh (37) and then 43 with Yusuf Pathan.
Those partnerships were the hub around which the Indian innings developed, giving the bowlers the liberty to try out their wares on this slow track.
The Indian innings was in a shambles before Raina’s exploits. Going into the game without an indisposed Gautam Gambhir and a rested Zaheer Khan, India were in the woods at 32 for two in the sixth over.