Rohit Sharma puts on a master-class to punish Proteas bowlers with some silky strokeplay
SO much has gone wrong since South Africa arrived here in the United Kingdom that it was even possible to believe yesterday here at the Hampshire Bowl that nothing would ever go right again.
There was greater fight, particularly with the ball, but yet still India cantered home by six wickets. Worse still, the two-time champions looked like they never even got out of neutral.
Not that they needed to either, for South Africa’s batsmen failed dismally once again.
The Proteas may be missing a couple of senior fast bowlers, but it is their performances with the willow that has been the real disappointing aspect of this near-doomed World Cup campaign.
Faf du Plessis’s men are now left with the virtually impossible task of having to win their final six games on the trot if they are to have any chance of progressing to the play-offs. Mathematically it is still an option, but in reality it is nigh impossible.
If they are indeed to turn around their fortunes – which would be the equivalent of climbing Everest on crutches – they would hopefully have learnt from the masterclass Rohit Sharma delivered yesterday.
Sharma, the only batsman to score two ODI double-centuries, would be the first to admit that his 122 off 144 balls was by no means his most fluent.
Kagiso Rabada roughed up the Indian opener in a fiery opening spell, with Sharma surviving a sharp bouncer that ballooned off his gloves just short of a diving Proteas captain Faf du Plessis at second slip.
A television review also went in his favour after Andile Phehlukwayo rapped him on the pads early on.
It was a close shave, but the big screen showed “Umpire’s Call” and Sharma never looked back from thereon.
He weathered the storm, stayed patient, and then transferred the pressure as his innings progressed through some silky strokeplay.
It is the type of innings that no South African has come close to replicating.
It would help if they were given the best opportunity to excel. In London, on arguably the hottest day this spring, they won the toss and elected to bowl first on a worn pitch. Here at the Hampshire Bowl, they choose to bat under a grey English blanket.
India’s ace fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah needed no second invitation to wreak havoc with the new ball that accounted for Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock.
In the opener against England Jofra Archer had rocked South Africa, now it was Bumrah that sent shivers through the Proteas dressing room.
There were moments of respite when Du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen attempted to rebuild the innings, but such is India’s quality that they can switch effortlessly between seam and spin.
In the build-up to this game there was consternation within the India camp whether they would attack South Africa with the dual wrist-spin option of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.
South Africa’s track record against the slow poison should have rendered the debate worthless for Chahal once again exposed the Proteas shortcomings.
The left-arm wrist-spinner tore the heart of the South African middle-order, claiming 4/51 through a mixture of googlies, leg-breaks and top-spinners.
He was well-supported by Yadav, who maintained the pressure with 1/46 from his allotted 10 overs.
In contrast, South Africa’s spin duo of Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi went wicketless and conceded 112 run in their 19 overs.
South Africa’s lights have not been completely switched off just yet. But the Class of 2019 is fast becoming the worst group to ever leave South African shores for a World Cup.