Opener Rohit Sharma scored a composed unbeaten century as India got their Cricket World Cup campaign off to a solid start with a six-wicket victory over a sloppy South African side in Southampton.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, South Africa posted a below-par 227 for nine in their 50 overs as wily wrist-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal returned figures of 4-51 following a superb opening burst from seamer Jasprit Bumrah (2-35).
India were cautious in their reply and the game was in the balance when Virat Kohli (18) was brilliantly caught by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock with the score on 54 for two in the 16th over.
But Rohit (122 not out from 144 balls) punished the South African bowlers after being dropped on one.
He attacked South Africa’s leg-spinners Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi as India reached 230 for four from 47.3 overs, condemning the ailing Proteas to a third successive loss to leave their World Cup hopes in disarray.
Rohit rode some early luck when he was dropped from a difficult chance by Faf du Plessis off the bowling of the unfortunate Kagiso Rabada (2-39).
He was dropped again off the same bowler on 107, but in between was faultless as he played the seamers with caution and used his guile to manoeuvre South Africa’s spinners around the ground.
Rohit was supported by MS Dhoni (34) and Lokesh Rahul (26), but dominated the scoring to carry his bat through the innings for a 23rd One-Day International century.
South Africa created opportunities in the field, but as has been the case throughout the World Cup so far, were uncharacteristically sloppy and battled to build pressure.
India were able to milk singles through the middle part of the innings, which kept the run-rate steady and kept them on course for victory with few alarms.
Chahal had earlier restricted South Africa’s total with four wickets, continuing his excellent form against the Proteas in recent years.
Seamer Bumrah found prodigious movement in both directions to remove openers Hashim Amla (6) and Quinton de Kock (10) inside the first six overs.
Du Plessis (38) and Rassie van der Dussen (22) put on a patient 54 in 80 balls in a bid to rebuild the innings, but after the latter was bowled trying a reverse-sweep off Chahal, wickets fell at regular intervals.
Chris Morris (42) and Kagiso Rabada (31 not out) put on 66 for the eighth wicket to ensure the side posted a score that at least gave them a chance, but in the end it was a long way short of a potential winning target.
It is a third straight loss for South Africa.