Southampton: India's Rohit Sharma in action during the 8th match of 2019 World Cup between India and South Africa at The Rose Bowl in Southampton, England on June 5, 2019. (Photo: Surjeet Yadav/IANS)
Southampton: Rohit Sharma went past Sourav Ganguly and also became the first Asian batsman to hit a hundred in this World Cup so far, as India cruised to a six-wicket victory over South Africa to get their campaign off to a glittering start at The Rose Bowl on Wednesday.
After Yuzvendra Chahal snared four wickets to restrict South Africa to 227/9, Rohit carried his bat with an unbeaten 122 off 144 balls, his innings studded with 13 fours and two sixes.
Rohit, the only cricketer to score three double hundreds in ODIs, now has 23 ODI hundreds -- only 8 batsmen have scored more ODI centuries than India's talismanic opening batsman and vice captain.
Rohit also went past former India skipper Ganguly's tally of 22 hundreds in the 50-over format.
Chasing a modest 228 for victory, India were fortunate to not lose one of their openers as the ball balooned up in the air on three occasions early on but to no avail. Rohit was dropped when he was batting on 1 by Faf Du Plessis off Kagiso Rabada (2/39) at second slip.
Rabada and Chris Morris 1/36) bowled tight lengths to keep the Indian openers quiet with Rabada getting rid of Dhawan (8) caught behind by wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock.
Rated as one of the best fast bowlers of his generation, Rabada was at his imperious best in the first spell (5-0-21-1) and could have got more wickets. Even skipper Virat Kohli struggled to get going, as Morris also stepped up to beat the ace batsman quite a few times.
Kohli (18) found the fence after 33 balls, a delectable pull off Andile Phehlukwayo but in the very next ball fell to a well-directed bouncer, de Kock snaffling an excellent catch behind the stumps to silence the large chunk of Indian supporters.
In came KL Rahul, at the much debated No 4 slot, and together with Rohit shared a 85-run stand which poured cold water to any hopes of a South Africa comeback.
Du Plessis failed to find a second option besides Rabada who could get him the wickets, but by the time the 24-year old was brought back in the 27th over, Rohit had already brought up his 50 off 70 balls looking as sublime as ever.A
Rabada did get Rahul (26) out with a slower delivery which the batsman scopped to mid off where Du Plessis took an easy catch, but it was too little too late by then as MS Dhoni walked in and scored a cool 34 runs off 46 balls, adding 74 runs with Rohit for the fourth wicket before getting out.
Rabada gave South Africa another sniff of a chance in the 44th over with a fast bouncer that Rohit, batting on 107, mistimed high up in the air but to the bowler's dismay, David Miller grassed a dolly at cover.A
In the next ball, Rohit used Rabada's extra bounce to arch back and help the ball over the keeper's head for a boundary and add insult to injury.
It was a six off Rabada that set the tone for Rohit who swivelled back and helped a shortish ball along to the fine leg boundary, picking the length early.A
There was no stopping the star Mumbai batsman from there on, as he was severe to chinaman bowler Tabraiz Shamsi and Imran Tahir who had an off day.A
Rohit racked up his 23rd ODI hundred in 128 balls by working a single off Shamsi, his third against South Africa and second in the World Cup.
After Dhoni's dismissal, all-rounder Hardik Pandya (15 off 7 not out) smashed three fours as India won with 15 balls to spare.
Earlier, Chahal (4/51) was the chief tormentor for the tottering Proteas batting line-up, picking four wickets and producing the second best spell by an Indian on World Cup debut.
Mohammed Shami's 4/35 against Pakistan in the 2015 edition is the best performance by an Indian bowler on World Cup debut.
Star pacer Jasprit Bumrah (2/35) accounted for the wickets of openers Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock to start the slide.
South Africa, who are playing their third game of the tournament, won the toss and chose to bat first.
They lost their openers to Bumrah in the first six overs before Rassie van der Dussen and captain Faf du Plessis took them past the 50-run mark.
Chahal then took over from Bumrah, breaking the third-wicket partnership by spinning the ball around Van der Dussen and hitting the stumps even as the batsman looked to play the reverse sweep.
Chahal followed this up with the wicket of Du Plessis. J.P. Duminy was then caught plumb in front by Kuldeep Yadav after which David Miller and Andile Phehlukwayo looked to consolidate the innings with a rather pragmatic 46-run stand for the sixth wicket that came off 75 balls.
It was Chahal who provided the breakthrough again by dismissing Miller. Phehlukwayo became Chahal's fourth wicket in the 40th over.
Chris Morris and Kagiso Rabada then countered with a 66-run stand off 59 balls for the eighth wicket that took South Africa past the 200-run mark. Bhuvneshwar Kumar then took the wickets of Morris and Imran Tahir to restrict South Africa to 227.
Brief Scores: South Africa: 227/9 (Morris 42, Chahal 4/51) vs India 230/4 in 47.3 overs (Rohit Sharma 122 not out; Kagiso Rabada 2/39)