Birmingham: After demolishing South Africa in the must-win fixture on Sunday, India skipper Virat Kohli asserted that it was their best performance of the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy so far.
Kohli's side had to win their final Group B fixture at The Oval to avoid an embarrassing exit and they rose to the challenge with a ruthless display and defeated the Proteas by eight wickets to storm into the semi-finals of the ongoing event.
"I cannot pin point any negatives from today honestly. It's probably our most complete game yet," said Kohli in the post-match press conference.
The Proteas, who are currently the No. 1 ranked ODI side, however lived up to their 'Perennial Chokers' tag in a virtual quarterfinal clash that turned out to be a thoroughly one-sided encounter.
Chasing a lowly target of 192, the defending champions lost two wickets and crossed the line in just 38 overs.
India didn't had a great start to their chase as they lost Rohit Sharma (12) at team's score of 23. However, skipper Virat Kohli (76*), who came in next to bat, shared a 128-run partnership with opener Shikhar Dhawan (78).
The left-handed opener, who had been in tremendous form in the Champions Trophy, was once again at his menacing best as he thrashed the South Africa bowlers to all the parts of the ground.
In his 83-ball knock, Dhawan smashed 12 boundaries and a six while the swashbuckling Indian skipper accumulated 7 fours and a six in his 101-ball inning.
"It was a good toss to win. The wicket didn't change much. We thought the wicket was really good to bat on. Our bowlers bowled really well and the fielders backed it up as well. I would say we had a complete performance in the field," Kohli said in the post-match presentation ceremony.
Earlier, the Men in Blue came out with a brilliant performance, both with the ball and in the field, to bowl out South Africa for a paltry 191 in 44.3 overs.
Put into bat, the Proteas had a solid start as both Quinton de Kock (53) and Hashim Amla (35) put on 76 runs for the opening stand. However, once Ravichandran Ashwin – playing his first match of the ongoing Champions Trophy – got the wicket of Amla, things just started to fall apart for the AB de Villiers-led side.
After the duo, only Faf du Plessis could manage to stay on the crease for a bit long and contributed valuable 36 runs.
The onus was on du Plessis to then bat through the innings. However, like the Pakistan match, he dragged one back off Hardik Pandya and got bowled.
From 116/1, the Proteas found themselves struggling at 157/5. JP Duminy was the only recognised batsman in the middle and he too could not stay long and help his side reach to a respectable total.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah both picked up two wickets while Pandya, Ashwin and Jadeja all chipped in with a wicket each.
"We grabbed our opportunities and that helped us restrict such a strong batting line-up to 190. Always good to get him (AB de Villiers) out early. He can really hurt you in the middle overs. It was great breakthrough for us. It was good to see the intensity from the boys," said Kohli.
Apart from the brilliant bowling performance, the Men in Blue were exceptional in the field as they pulled off three run-outs to put the brakes during the course of the South African innings.
"This kind of fielding performance was required. Before going out in the middle, we had a chat in the huddle where I said I wanted to see everyone's intensity go up and that is conscious effort which I want to see from everyone in such a big game," said Kohli.
"The bowlers were on the money. It actually helps the fielders to get into better positions and attack the batsmen when they know that the bowlers are hitting the right spot regularly," he added.
India will now face Bangladesh in the second semifinal on June 15 while Group A topper England will face the winner of the final Group B fixture between Sri Lanka and Pakistan to be played at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff on Monday....