Southampton: Yuzvendra Chahal, an Under-12 national chess champion who represented India at the World Youth Chess Championship at the age of 16, is a master in making the right moves in chess.
Today, at the age of 28, playing against South Africa in India’s first match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 at the Hampshire Bowl ground, he pitched the cricket ball at the right areas and restricted South Africa to 227 for 9 in 50 overs.
Chahal, tapping his ability to outfox opponents in both sports, returned with figures of 4 for 51 from his ten overs.
At one point, it looked like this attacking leg spin-googly bowler would equal the record of former Indian all-rounder Yuvraj Singh, who is the only Indian spinner to have produced a five-wicket haul in a World Cup.
He got a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of his quota of 10 overs.
For the strong Indian batting line-up, it wasn’t a big total, especially against an injury-hit South African bowling attack.
Rohit Sharma cracked his 23rd ODI hundred and second in the World Cup to remain unbeaten on 122 off 144 balls. with 13 boundaries and two sixes, to ensure a sixwicket win with 15 balls to spare. South Africa crashed to their third consecutive defeat.
Though Kagiso Rabada got opener Shikhar Dhawan out caught behind for 8 and Andile Phehlukwayo dismissed Indian skipper Virat Kohli for 18 after he had put on 41 runs in the next 10.2 overs with Sharma, India sailed smoothly towards the target.
Sharma raced to his half-century in 70 balls and put on 85 runs in 16 overs with Lokesh Rahul (26). Sharma then reached his century in 128 balls and put on a 74-run partnership with Dhoni (34) in 14.4 overs.
As expected, it was a top class bowling performance from India with Jasprit Bumrah, the most respected pacer in world cricket today, removing both the openers Hashim Amla and Quinton De Kock with the score reading just 24 runs in 5.5 overs.
The dismissal of both the batsmen was clinical.
Amla, who is struggling for form, edged a ball that angled at 140km/h and straightened for Rohit Sharma to take the catch at second slip catch.
As the crowd chanted Boom Boom Bumrah, he produced a 143km/h delivery to De Kock and got the batsman to edge to Kohli at third slip.
Rassie van der Dussen and skipper Faf Du Plessis put on a 54 runs partnership in the next 13.2 overs before Chahal launched his plans to destroy the cream of South Africa’s batting.
The 20th over of the innings turned out to be a disastrous one for South Africa.
Der Dussen, with no respect for Chahal, attempted a reverse sweep and found himself being bowled around the legs for 22. With the last ball of that over, Chahal also got Du Plessis bowled for 38.
It was a treat to watch that faster delivery go through Du Plessis defense, hit his pad and hit the stumps.
With half the South African side back in the pavilion for 89, Kuldeep Yadav trapped Jean Paul Duminy on 3, leg before as the batsman failed to read the pace.
When it looked like the contest was turning into a low-scoring one, David Miller and Andile Phehlukwayo put on a 46 runs partnership in the next 12.3 overs. However, Miller, known as ‘Killer Miller’ was stopped from going for his shots by Chahal, who forced him to offer a return catch. It took 39 overs for South Africa to hit the first six of the match and that happened when Phehlukwayo lifted Yadav over long on. Phehlukwayo got stopped by Chahal who had him stumped by Dhoni for 34. A fighting 66-run partnership in 9.5 overs between Chris Morris (42) and Kagiso Rabada (31n.o) for the eighth wicket took South Africa past the 200-run mark.