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World Cup 2023: Virat Kohli’s 49th ton, India’s 8th win

Virat equals Sachin’s ODI record | Team’s winning streak continues with Proteas drubbing

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World Cup 2023: Virat Kohli’s 49th ton, India’s 8th win
KolkataA day of dreams ended with a magical night, with all the wishes of the fans of the Indian team finding fulfilment at the Eden Gardens here: Virat Kohli got his 49th ODI hundred. Equalling Sachin Tendulkar’s record on his 35th birthday; and India their eighth win on the trot ensuring they would top the league stage of the World Cup as South Africa flamed out in spectacular fashion, out for 83, confounded by the spin of Ravindra Jadeja.

India would now play the fourth-best team in the semifinals. Pakistan’s recent resurgence opens up the tantalising, though remote, possibility that India could take on them in the semis here on November 16.

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Kohli had missed three centuries in the seven previous outings in the tournament, and it seemed it was destined that the most expressive and emotional of Indian players would get his 49th at this most emotional and expressive of Indian venues.

It was no walk in the garden at the Eden, however. A blazing 40 off 24 balls by Rohit Sharma, and his 62-run partnership in 5.5 overs with Shubman Gill, suggested that batting would be child’s play on this track; indeed, India got to 91 runs in 10 overs, suggesting that carnage would follow. But the wicket became sluggish, the ball older, and the South African spinners, especially Keshav Maharaj (1/30 off 10 overs) put Kohli and Shreyas Iyer on a tight leash. Iyer managed to break free, and Suryakumar Yadav and Jadeja smashed the ball, but Kohli played with calmness even in the most hectic part of the innings and reached his 100 in the 49th over, with only nine balls remaining in India’s innings.

South Africa’s chase of 327 was a non-starter as Mohammed Siraj had Quinton de Kock, with four 100s in the tournament, out bowled; it became 21/2 when, in his very first over, Jadeja removed Temba Bavuma, and South Africa were staring at the abyss when it became 35/3, Aiden Markram edging Mohammed Shami to the wicketkeeper. Then, in three balls Jadeja and Shami trapped Heinrich Klaasen and Rassie van der Dussen lbw and the game was as good as over. India’s only previous World Cup game (semifinals in 1996) here had ended in unforgettable infamy. The day Kohli turned 35, and the night South Africa got humiliated, would create lasting memories, too.

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