Victory not big enough for India
South Africa denied India a World Twenty20 semi-final despite losing to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side at Colombo’s Premadasa Stadium.
Having posted 152 for six, India had to limit the already eliminated Proteas to 121 or fewer to progress at the expense of bitter rivals Pakistan, but the best they could do was a one-run win.
The result means hosts Sri Lanka will play Pakistan on Thursday and Australia will face West Indies on Friday in the last four, both games at the same venue as this final Super Eight game.
Three wickets each for Zaheer Khan and Lakshmipathy Balaji earned victory, but it will be little consolation to the winners of the inaugural World T20 in 2007.
Suresh Raina’s 45 had aided an India recovery from 36 for three, yet the recalled Francois du Plessis’ 38-ball 65 looked to be decisive until seamers Zaheer and Balaji cleaned up for respective figures of 3-22 and 3-37.
AB de Villiers, who won the toss, named two changes to the side that lost to Australia by eight wickets with du Plessis and Albie Morkel replacing Richard Levi and Wayne Parnell. India were unchanged from an eight-wicket defeat of Pakistan.
Zaheer snared the vital scalp of Hashim Amla with the innings’ second ball, having the right-hander held at first slip for nought, and Irfan Pathan quickly accounted for Jacques Kallis, who had been promoted to open.
Du Plessis struck Zaheer for six over long-off and Irfan for two fours past extra-cover, but de Villiers played on for 13 to Yuvraj Singh’s first ball.
Du Plessis launched Rohit Sharma over the midwicket rope and hit Balaji for two consecutive fours to that boundary. The right-hander then sweetly struck Yuvraj for four through extra-cover but, immediately attempting a repeat, holed out to long-off to leave South Africa 95 for four in the 13th over.
Balaji broke through again when JP Duminy was caught sweeping for 13 and Ravichandran Ashwin bowled Robin Peterson twice in two deliveries, but the first was a no-ball and the next a free hit. Reprieved, Peterson pulled Balaji for four and, later in the over, glanced a single to short fine-leg to ensure Pakistan’s progression.
Zaheer struck from back-back balls, having Farhaan Behardien caught at long-on for 13 and yorking Peterson for 10. With 24 needed from the last two overs, Johan Botha produced a straight six but immediately fell at long-off to Ashwin.
Maximums were immediately followed by wickets in the last over, Albie Morkel depositing Balaji over midwicket before playing on for 10 and Morne Morkel pulling another before being bowled to be last out with a ball unused.
Earlier, Gautam Gambhir had cover-driven Dale Steyn for four from the first ball of the match but soon played on to Morne Morkel.
Kallis cheaply had in-form Virat Kohli caught behind and it was three wickets in three overs when Virender Sehwag sought a second consecutive six off Peterson only to be bowled for 17.
Yuvraj upped the ante with a maximum off both Botha and Peterson but lost his off stump to Morne Morkel on 21.
Rohit Sharma was dropped on 14 when Botha could not hold a difficult chance running round from long-on. Raina responded with three fours in as many overs.
Rohit paid for misjudging an attempted sweep off Peterson to be lbw for 25, but Raina was reprieved on 40 when Behardien shelled a regulation chance at deep square-leg off Kallis.
Dhoni, who was unbeaten on 23, took Steyn for two fours in the penultimate over and Raina was run out from the last ball of the innings, going for a second.