Tail-ender Robin Peterson broke Indian hearts as he blasted 16 runs off the final over to hand South Africa a thrilling three-wicket win over the co-hosts in the World Cup on Saturday.
Chasing 297 and needing 13 off the last six balls, Peterson (18 not out) blasted a six and two fours to edge the Proteas to victory with two balls left — silencing a passionate home crowd.
Sachin Tendulkar had set up an enthralling Group B encounter with a sparkling 111, his 99th international century.
That, along with 73 from Virender Sehwag, left India in great shape at 267-1, but their remaining nine wickets crashed for 29 runs to leave them 296 all out.
In response, South Africa were always adrift of the required run rate, although Jacques Kallis (69), Hashim Amla (61) and A.B. de Villiers (52) kept them in with a chance until Peterson’s late cameo.
“I’m extremely ecstatic at the moment. To have a great game with so many great innings was such a good advert for the World Cup,” a jubilant Peterson said.
His captain, Graeme Smith, heaped praise on his match winner.
“Robbie always tries to be the calmest in the team, but I think his heart was pounding a little bit there,” Smith said.
“I haven’t seen him hit the ball that sweet in a long time and it was a good day for it to show up,” Smith said.
While Peterson’s late fireworks had his teammates leaping out of their seats and exchanging high-fives in the South Africa -dressing room, India were left to rue their missed chances as they could have sealed their place in the last eight with victory on Saturday.
The hosts not only paid the price for losing their wickets in a heap, but India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s gamble to throw the ball to pace bowler Ashish Nehra for the final over spectacularly backfired.
“Ashish was the only choice [for the last over]. He was bowling well and I thought it’s better to go with the seamer,” said Dhoni, who could have asked Harbhajan Singh to bowl it as South Africa had had more problems reading the spinner. “You can say I was wrong maybe, but I thought that the seamer could do the job for us.”
His judgment call meant Tendulkar and Sehwag’s brilliant knock turned out to be in vain.
The duo had stitched together a 142-run opening stand, but the Little Master’s exit in the 40th over triggered a collapse and India, who looked set to go past 350 at one stage, were all out in 48.4 overs.
India completely lost their way as wickets fell like nine pins to a stunned silence at the VCA -Stadium, with speedster Dale Steyn, who went for 24 off his first three overs, causing the most damage to end with a five-wicket haul for 50 runs.
Tendulkar and Sehwag added 87 in the mandatory powerplay of 10 overs — the tournament’s best so far — and India were 128 for no loss at the end of 15 overs, before South Africa had even realized what hit them.
After Sehwag (73) departed in the 18th over, Tendulkar (111) continued to his record sixth World Cup century and made batting look ridiculously easy with an almost chanceless innings, consisting of eight fours and three sixes.
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