World Cup 2019: Tale of two teams headed in opposite directions
Exclusive: Once the Indian batsmen saw off the rampant Rabada and a motivated Chris Morris, the glaring gulf in the two teams became obvious
After a prolonged wait, India faced their opening World Cup match knowing a good performance would achieve two very positive outcomes. Firstly, a win would boost confidence and be the perfect way to kick-start their campaign. Secondly, it would put a dangerous opponent in South Africa one step closer to World Cup 2019 extinction.
India achieved both aims reasonably comfortably against South Africa on Wednesday and in doing so added a couple more positives to their wish list. The bowling was excellent with the lively Jasprit Bumrah leading the way and the wily Yuzvendra Chahal regaining his confidence with a masterful display of leg-spin bowling.
Attacking bowlers need to be backed by aggressive captaincy. Virat Kohli supplied Bumrah with the required back-up to claim two crucial wickets in Hashim Amla and Quentin de Kock, caught at second and third slip respectively. Kohli continued in this vein, backing both his spinners who claimed five wickets between them in the crucial middle over period.
Then when India batted it was Rohit Sharma who provided the backbone to the innings with a determined century. It was not your usual Rohit century — spiced with glorious shots played in a carefree manner — on this occasion he had to fight his way through a tough opening period as Kagiso Rabada in particular bowled with fire and skill and very little luck.
India's Rohit Sharma celebrates his century against South Africa at Rose Bowl in Southampton on Wednesday. Pic/Bipin Patel
Rohit survived and began to prosper after he broke the shackles with a couple of glorious horizontal bat shots. This is why Rohit is so important to India's chances in this World Cup; with quite a few bouncers flying around, Rohit and Kohli can both provide the ideal deterrent.
Once the rampant Rabada and a motivated Chris Morris were seen off, a glaring difference in the two teams became obvious. Where India maintained control after Bumrah's initial burst through the expertise of Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, South Africa's spinners were ineffective. The only similarity was the respective styles of bowling; one leg-spinner and one chinaman bowler in each team.
Team India in good space
The form of the two spinners was yet another boost to India's chances and with Ravindra Jadeja waiting in the wings for their next opponent Australia, they are better placed than any other team in this regard.
For South Africa, the tournament is virtually over as they need to win their remaining matches and they still have to face Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and the West Indies. South Africa's only comfort can be taken from the fact that this time they got the World Cup agony out of the way early by not experiencing a painful exit in the knockout stages as on previous occasions.
India are now primed for the tough schedule they face in the next few rounds. They have important players in form and others who had some useful time in the middle against South Africa. This match was a tale of two teams headed in opposite directions.
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