ICC World Cup: Shikhar Dhawan sizzles on 'home' ground with superb ton
India opener Shikhar Dhawan, who hit a match-winning 137 against SA, is a Melbourne resident and lives in the outer suburbs of the city in Narre Warren, with wife Ayesha, two daughters and son
Melbourne: India opener Shikhar Dhawan is a Melbourne resident and lives in the outer suburbs of the city in Narre Warren, with wife Ayesha, two daughters Rhea and Aliyah and infant son Zoravar.
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Shikhar Dhawan celebrates his century vs South Africa in Melbourne
Dhawan even trains at the Melbourne Cricket Ground whenever he has time off from the Indian team and is not at his second home in Delhi. It's no wonder then that the India opener batted like a dream on his 'home ground', scoring his first ton in three months and his highest ODI score, that too against the South Africans in yesterday's Group B match at the MCG.
Twenty nine-year-old Dhawan scored a brilliant 146-ball 137 (16x4s, 2x6s), again curbing his natural instincts quite a bit, just like his show against Pakistan the previous Sunday, ably supported by Mumbai's Ajinkya Rahane (60-ball 79, 7x4s, 3x6s) as India posted 307-7 egged on by a vociferous crowd of over 86,000. In reply, SA folded up for 177 in 40.2 overs.
Dhawan displayed all the shots in his armoury en route to successfully negotiating SA's pace battery of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Wayne Parnell (brought in at the cost of batsman Farhaad Behardien thereby reducing the depth of the SA batting line-up). His effortless two sixes — a pick-up over long-on off Steyn and then a casual flick walking across the stumps over square-leg — showed just how comfortable he was at 'home' against the Proteas. In fact, his dismissal also smacked of the lazy arrogance that can creep in while playing at home. He was a fraction late to execute the pull against Steyn and ended up top-edging it to Hashim Amla at long leg.
The Proteas, on the other hand, did everything possible to make Shikhar's World Cup debut at 'home' memorable. Their bowling was average, fielding unimpressive and batting even worse. They dropped the Indians thrice in the field, the most expensive being Amla letting off Dhawan at backward point when he was on 53. The batting though was the lowlight of this SA show. India's pace duo of Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami hardly put a foot wrong to begin with and SA opener Quinton de Kock (seven runs) drove wrongly to perish to Kohli at mid-off. A restricted Amla was the next to leave, trying to pull but only managing to top-edge Mohit where Shami held on.
De Villiers (30) and David Miller (22) were then dismissed by brilliant run-outs from the outfield by Mohit and Yadav respectively prompting Dhoni to later refer to this as the turning point of the match. And when JP Duminy (six) perished trying to reverse sweep Ravichandran Ashwin it was a dismal end to the SA batting brigade.
Dhoni hailed Dhawan for pacing his innings perfectly. "It's just a matter of 15, 20 minutes and maybe the 20 minutes of initial batting in the last game really helped Shikhar. Today also, he hit it only when it was there to be hit, and also rotated the strike. Once he got to his 100, he made sure he was still at the crease, so it was easier for the other batsmen. Openers tend to go for big shots after the 25th over as they think their job is over, but in these conditions once you are set, you have to make the most of it," said Dhoni.
Shikhar Dhawan's 137 is the highest ever score vs South Africa in a World Cup game
Dhawan is the only Indian in the current squad to have scored a ton against SA in ODIs
After losing two quick wickets, AB de Villiers and Faf Du Plessis were doing a pretty decent repair job before De Villiers decided to test the arm of Mohit Sharma. Stroking the ball into the covers, De Villiers set off for a single and ambitiously decided to come back for the second. Though Mohit lost his balance, he fired a bullet on top of the stumps and MS Dhoni did the rest. The run-out opened the floodgates and India never looked back after that.
Star of the match
After a successful century stand, India lost a wicket against the run of play at Melbourne just like they had done at Adelaide against Pakistan. Mumbai lad Ajinkya Rahane came out to bat at his customary No 4 position. He took the pressure off Shikhar Dhawan and also kept taking calculated risks. While people went gaga over Dhawan's knock, Rahane quietly went about his business at the other end. His 79 off 60 balls gave an impetus to the innings and also included some audacious shots off Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
Yesterday's win saw Dhawan and Kohli put up their second successive century-plus stand
Yesterday's victory was India's first win against Proteas after three losses in the World Cup