A hard-fought triumph was lost amidst the heavy hearts of the Indian cricketers and their ardent fans.
A victory by the narrowest of margins — one run — was secured, but the larger goal was missed as India defeated South Africa, yet crashed out of the ICC World Twenty20.
Prior to the Super Eights Group II match at the R. Premadasa Stadium here on Tuesday, India’s net run-rate (-0.452) was far below leader Australia (+0.464) and second-placed Pakistan (+0.273).
To surpass that gap, India had to defeat South Africa by a margin of 31 runs or more after scoring 152 for six.
The Proteas replied with 151 in 19.5 overs and accompanied M.S. Dhoni’s men towards the exit gate.
The early part of the South African chase pointed towards a rousing night. Zaheer Khan nailed Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis failed to clear the inner-circle and Man-of-the-Match Yuvraj Singh castled South African captain A.B. de Villiers.
At 46 for three, seemingly hurtling towards another loss, South Africa found belated cheer in Faf du Plessis’s 65 (38b, 6x4, 2x6) which also dented India’s chances.
Drafted into the South African playing eleven ahead of Richard Levi, du Plessis hoisted Zaheer and Rohit Sharma for a six each and heartily tucked into an Irfan Pathan over.
The tail added a furious twist but the ignominy of a loss was prevented with L. Balaji conceding two sixes, but claiming two wickets in the contest’s last over.
Earlier, boxed into a corner after Pakistan defeated Australia, India needed its batsmen to fire once de Villiers elected to field.
The top-order, however, failed, but Suresh Raina (45, 34b, 5x4) propped up the innings. Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli failed while Yuvraj offered minor relief through sixes off Johan Botha and Robin Peterson.
The southpaw, however, failed to dig out a Morne Morkel yorker and then Raina and Rohit shared a 44-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
Raina clouted the spinners, picked a four each off Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn and later hustled the runs with Dhoni before India resigned itself to an anguished night.
Gautam Gambhir b Morne Morkel 8
Virender Sehwag b Peterson 17
Virat Kohli c de Villiers b Kallis 2
Rohit Sharma lbw b Peterson 25
Yuvraj Singh b Morne Morkel 21
Suresh Raina run out 45
Mahendra Singh Dhoni not out 23
Extras- (10lb, 1nb) 11
TOTAL- (for six wickets) 152
Fall of wickets- 1—23, 2—30, 3—36, 4—68, 5—112, 6—152.
Bowling- Dale Steyn 4—1—26—0, Morne Morkel 4—0—28—2 (1nb), Jacques Kallis 3—0—24—1, Robin Peterson 4—0—25—2, Johan Botha 3—0—30—0, Faf du Plessis 1—0—3—0, JP Duminy 1—0—6—0.
Jacques Kallis c Sharma b Pathan 6
AB de Villiers b Singh 13
Faf du Plessis c Raina b Singh 65
JP Duminy c Gambhir b Balaji 16
Farhaan Behardien c Raina b Khan 13
Robin Peterson b Khan 10
Albie Morkel b Balaji 10
Johan Botha c Raina b Ashwin 8
Dale Steyn not out 0
Morne Morkel b Balaji 6
Extras- (3lb, 1nb) 4
TOTAL- (all out) 151
Fall of wickets- 1—0, 2—16, 3—46, 4—95, 5—107, 6—127, 7—127, 8—138, 9—145.
Bowling- Zaheer Khan 4—0—22—3, Irfan Pathan 3—0—26—1, Yuvraj Singh 4—0—23—2, Rohit Sharma 1—0—13—0, Ravichandran Ashwin 4—0—27—1 (1nb), Lakshmipathy Balaji 3.5—0—37—3.
Keywords: 2012 World Twenty20