Cardiff, June 6: India began their Champions Trophy 2013 campaign with a convincing 26-run victory over South Africa in the tournament opener here on Thursday.
Shikhar Dhawan starred for the Men in Blue with a fine century. His first ODI hundred catapulted the team to 331/7 and in the second half of the game, spinners took charge to derail the opposition's chase. South Africa were bowled out for 305 in 50 overs.
Barring captain AB de Villiers (70), Robin Peterson (68) and Ryan McLaren's (71 not out) half centuries, South Africa batsmen faltered on a good batting surface.
The chase was on track when De Villiers and Peterson were batting. Their 124-run association for the third wicket was going smoothly when Ravindra Jadeja's brilliant piece of fielding turned the game.
Jadeja ran Peterson out in the 25th over with the score on 155. From 155/3, South Africa slumped to 188/6 in 32.5 overs. David Miller was another victim of a run out without facing a ball.
McLaren, batting at 8, waged a lone battle in the final overs in the company of the injured Morne Morkel but the required run rate was too high to scale down.
India next play West Indies on June 11 at The Oval while South Africa meet Pakistan on June 10 at Edgbaston.
Earlier, left-handed opener Dhawan blasted his maiden ODI hundred to power India to 331/7 in 50 overs. Playing his first ODI since June 16, 2011, Dhawan raced to his century in just 80 balls. He and makeshift opener Rohit Sharma laid a solid platform for India after being sent to bat by De Villiers.
Dhawan and Rohit (65) had a partnership of 127 for the first wicket in 21.2 overs. Rohit hit his 14th ODI half century. Dhawan, who in March hit the fastest-ever debut century (85 balls) in Tests against Australia, continued the same aggressive form. A superb innings of 114 from 94 balls was studded with 12 fours and 1 six.
Much was expected from South African seamers in overcast conditions. But their ploy to test the Indian batsmen with short-pitched bowling did not work. To add to that their fielding was not good at the start. Dale Steyn's absence was clearly a big setback.
After this fine start, India lost their way from 210/1 to 260/5. Offspinner JP Duminy bowled an excellent spell of 10 overs for 1/42. Paceman Morkel walked off the ground without completing his 7th over with an injury.
He did not return to the field. Later Cricket South Africa said Morkel had strained his left quad muscle. "Morne Morkel sustained a strain to his left quad muscle and is unlikely to take any further part in the match," CSA tweeted.
Despite a mini-collapse, India were able to post a big score courtesy a 29-ball 47 not out by Ravindra Jadeja. India's total today was also the highest at the venue surpassing their own 304/6 against England in 2011.
If South Africa are to win, they have to set a new record while chasing at this stadium. Highest successful chase is 258/3 by Australia against Pakistan in 2001.
South Africa captain AB de Villiers won the toss and invited India to bat first in the opening game.
Under overcast conditions, India will send Rohit Sharma as an opener along with Shikhar Dhawan. Regular opening batsman Murali Vijay was dropped.
For South Africa, it was a huge blow as Dale Steyn missed out due to injury.
India and South Africa are in Group B. Pakistan and West Indies are the other two teams in this group. Top two make the semi-finals.
Group A comprises defending champions Australia, hosts England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
This is the last time Champions Trophy will be played. Top 8 teams in ICC ODI Championship Table are contesting. The final will be held on June 23.
India: MS Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Colin Ingram, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Robin Peterson, Rory Kleinveldt, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Match starts at 3PM IST