Cricket World Cup 2019: Rohit Sharma inspires India to pile more misery on winless South Africa
Three defeats out of three for Proteas as Virat Kohli's men begin campaign with a win in Southampton
After kicking their heels watching everyone else play in the World Cup for the past week, India were able to swap paintball for cricket balls as they finally got their campaign underway in emphatic style.
Rohit Sharma scored a century as the 2011 champions beat South Africa by six wickets at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton.
It had been seven days since the tournament’s soggy opening ceremony. India had been given special dispensation to delay their entry to the event, on account of the Indian Premier League.
A recent ruling by India’s Supreme Court stated their players needed 15 days' rest between assignments. ICC acceded to that some time back, tweaking the fixture list to delay India’s first fixture.
As it turned out, the final of the IPL was subsequently brought forward because of a clash with the Indian elections, meaning the team had far longer than the stated 15 days’ off.
The players, who had distracted themselves with such activities as paintballing during the hiatus, must have been glad of the chance to return to the field.
Rohit certainly looked intent on making up for lost time. He became the third centurion of the tournament, after Joe Root and Jos Buttler, and he ended on 122 not out as India reached their victory target with 15 balls to spare.
It was the 23rd ODI century of his career. Only Sachin Tendulkar (49) and Virat Kohli (41) have more for India.
“There was something in it for the bowlers throughout the game, and I couldn't play my natural game,” Rohit said.
“I had to take my time to play shots, and had to cut down certain shots I love to play.
“All the batsmen in the team have a job, it's their role to bat through and get the job done. We can't rely on one or two individuals.
“That's been the hallmark of this team. We've done that well. This is a big tournament and at some stage someone else will put their hand up and do the job for us.”
India’s belated start means the tournament has a lopsided feel to it at present. While it was their first appearance, five of the other teams have appeared twice, while South Africa are already near to the exit.
This was their third defeat in a nightmarish start to the tournament, that has also brought with it its fair share of injury anguish.
Dale Steyn has been ruled out entirely with a shoulder injury, Hashim Amla missed a game due to concussion, and Lungi Ngidi is struggling with a hamstring complaint.
As such, they might have been fearing the worst when Faf du Plessis, their captain, was struck a painful blow on his finger early in his innings.
He managed to carry on, but became one of four victims of the outstanding Yuzvendra Chahal, as South Africa were restricted to 227 for nine from their 50 overs.
Although Rohit rode his luck to make century, and Quinton de Kock managed a stunning catch to dismiss Virat Kohli cheaply, the Indians were comfortable winners.
“Ours is a changing room that is hurting, we are trying to make sure we keep fighting but we're making mistakes all the time,” Du Plessis said.
Updated: June 5, 2019 09:57 PM