Rohit Sharma’s rollicking 150-run knock went in vain as South Africa pulled off a thrilling five-run victory in the first cricket One-dayer against India to continue their winning run here on Sunday.
Chasing a record 304 at the Green Park, the Indians fell agonisingly short of the target in the last over, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
With India needing 22 off the last two overs, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni failed to finish the job after Rohit (150 runs off 133 balls) got out in the 47th over. The script went horribly wrong after Rohit’s departure as India crumbled under pressure to end at 298 for seven.
Rohit’s eighth ton in ODIs ended in a losing cause and it came after AB de Villiers’s unbeaten 104 off 73 balls that propelled South Africa to 303 for five, the highest score at this venue surpassing 294 made by the hosts in 2007.
India seemed set to chase down the total until they lost the plot in the final few overs with Dhoni (31), Suresh Raina (3) and Stuart Binny (2) falling well short of expectations.
They would have been nowhere near the target if it was not for Rohit, who opened the batting in Kanpur heat and lasted almost till the end. His herculean effort comprised 13 fours and six sixes.
India, however, began the chase smoothly, scoring at run a ball to be 90 for one in 15 overs. The start would have been even better had Shikhar Dhawan (23) been not adjudged lbw to a questionable decision with the ball appearing to go down the leg side.
Ajnkya Rahane (60), who was a surprise inclusion in the team, came in at no.3 ahead of Virat Kohli and alongside Rohit, forged a carefully crafted partnership.
De Villers enthralled the local crowd in the first half of the game and then it was the turn of their own hero Rohit, whose strokes square off the wicket gelled beautifully with his cover drives. Back in the side, Rahane too began in style, punching a cover drive off speedster Kagiso Rabada.
India seemed to be riding a steady ship with both of them at the crease, negotiating the pace heavy South African attack bolstered with the return of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
Rohit got to his fifty cutting gently over backward point for four and followed it up with a flick between mid-on and mid-wicket.
The innings was on cruise mode for the entirety of their partnership, milking the slower bowlers and making the likes of Steyn and Morkel struggle under the sun.
Rahane was caught at cover after he made room to play an expansive drive but his stay at the crease was enough to justify his selection that seemed unexpected after Dhoni himself said that it was tough to place him in the XI.
Rohit carried on in the company of Virat Kohli and reached three figures with an elegant flick over midwicket.
Steyn brought his team into the game by having Kohli caught at fine-leg to make it 214 for three and India needing 90 runs off the final 10. It was a T20 chase from thereon but India’s IPL specialists, Dhoni and Raina, came a cropper.
Earlier, captain de Villers completed a spectacular century with a six off the final ball of the innings to lead South Africa to a record score.
A packed stadium erupted when de Villiers (104 not out off 73 balls) smacked a six just over long on to bring his 21st ODI hundred, equaling the feat of teammate Hashim Amla and Herschelle Gibbs.