Raina's ton powers India into Super 8 | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Raina's ton powers India into Super 8

Suresh Raina became the first Indian batsman to score a Twenty20 International hundred and guided his side to a thrilling 14-run win over South Africa and into the Super Eight stage of the World Cup in St Lucia, reports Anand Vasu. See special

cricket Updated: May 03, 2010 07:10 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times

Spectators are still coming to grip with the fact that they can have a light breakfast, watch a T20 match and be back home for lunch. With coffee in the belly rather than beer, even the tin band that played incessantly could not work the crowd into a suitable frenzy. That job was left to Suresh Raina, who dealt in the currency most appreciated these days, sixes and fours.

When Raina lifted Jacques Kallis over wide long on for the first of his five sixes, the Indians in the crowd were on their feet. In conditions that were clearly not ideal for swinging through the line, Raina's shot selection was near perfect.

Yuvraj Singh, teaming up with Raina after Murali Vijay and Dinesh Karthik had fallen early, showed little signs of being out of form, either defending resolutely or picking off loose balls with delicious strikes. Sensing that Yuvraj was in the mood, Raina switched gears, determined to bat long and anchor the innings.

South Africa's bowlers did their best to keep India's batsmen honest, and succeeded for the longest time, with the score only progressing to 67 after 10 overs and then 111 after 15. What they could not have bargained for was that India's finishing was as purposeful and clinical as their beginning. With wickets in hand and plenty of big hitters in the mix, India charged to the finish line. Raina brought up his second 50 off only 18 balls, and was the driving force behind India putting up 75 runs in the last five overs.

Raina's hand was a master-class in innings construction, the thrust coming in the 18th over, which cost Rory Kleinveldt and South Africa 25 runs. The manner in which Raina went down on one knee and muscled a perfectly decent delivery over the long-off fielder showed just how much in control of the situation he was. Raina's final six, in the last over of the innings, brought up a richly deserved hundred, only the third in T20 internationals, after Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum.

Faced with a target of 187 and the prospect of playing a spin-heavy attack that included Piyush Chawla in place of Zaheer Khan, South Africa needed several things to go their way if they were to be successful. But India's hold on the match only tightened as Harbhajan Singh opened the bowling and set the tone for the second half.

Once the field was spread and the spinners took the pace off the ball, South Africa's batsmen struggled to get any kind of momentum going. When Mahendra Singh Dhoni put down a Kallis chance, off Ravindra Jadeja, the South Africa all-rounder was suddenly roused into action. He went after Harbhajan, taking two sixes off one over, and then lofted Jadeja over mid-off for a third maximum. When he took on Chawla, however, Kallis (73) holed out to long on, leaving the new batsmen at the crease with too much to do.

India held their nerve and despite displaying just the kind of desperation needed in this form of the game, South Africa fell short by 14 runs. Suresh Raina’s century was only the third in Twenty20 internationals.