Shikhar Dhawan’s career-best 137 powered India to a thumping 130-run World Cup victory over South Africa in the Group B clash in front of a raucous 86,876-strong crowd at the MCG.
Dhawan struck 16 fours and two sixes in his 146-ball knock, which propelled the defending champions to 307-7 before South Africa slumped to 177 all out in 40.2 overs in reply, losing their last eight wickets for just 69 runs as spinner Ravichandran Ashwin finished with 3-41.
India – who have won each of the seven one-day internationals in which Dhawan has made a century – now have two victories from as many games after beating Pakistan by 76 runs last Sunday after completing their third-largest victory over the Proteas ever.
South Africa struck the first blow after India opted to bat as AB de Villiers’ direct hit ran Rohit Sharma for a duck but thereafter they struggled to make in-roads as Dhawan shared a second-wicket stand of 127 with Virat Kohli (46), then added a further 125 for the third wicket with Ajinkya Rahane (79).
The opener, dropped by Hashim Amla on 53 off Wayne Parnell’s bowling, went on to post his century off 122 balls before passing his previous best ODI score of 119, made against the West Indies in Kanpur in 2013.
Dhawan eventually fell in the 44th over when Amla made amends, taking a catch at fine-leg off the same bowler. The left-hander’s wicket was the first of four to fall for 23 runs, including that of Rahane who was trapped lbw by Dale Steyn (1-55 off 10 overs).
Skipper MS Dhoni saw his side past the 300-mark with a late flurry of 18 off 11 balls, India finishing on 307-7 off their 50-over allocation.
South Africa were firmly in the game at 108-2 as Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers rebuilt after an out-of-sorts Quinton de Kock (seven) miscued Mohammed Shami to Kohli at mid-off and fellow opener Hashim Amla (22) top-edged an attempted pull to fine leg.
Skipper de Villiers seemed particularly well set but his innings came to a sudden end when he was beaten by Mohit Sharma's flat throw from the deep, Dhoni whipping off the bails just in time.
From that point South Africa’s innings quickly tailed away, du Plessis departing shortly after bringing up his 13th ODI fifty as he advanced down the pitch against Mohit Sharma only to pick out Dhawan at mid-off.
JP Duminy’s attempted reverse sweep gifted Raina a simple catch off Ashwin’s bowling before David Miller (22) was the victim of more excellent ground fielding, beaten by Umesh Yadav’s throw to Dhoni from deep square leg.
Vernon Philander, who had earlier hobbled off the field with a hamstring injury, failed to add to the score before he fell lbw to Ashwin and the collapse continued as Steyn picked out Dhawan at cover.
The end came quickly enough as Morne Morkel was bowled by Ashwin, heaving across the line and Imran Tahir fell lbw to Ravindra Jadeja.
Watch highlights of India’s win over South Africa throughout the day on Sky Sports World Cup or with Hindi commentary on Zee Cinema (channel 790).