Virat Kohli equaled Sachin Tendulkar's ODI record of 49 hundreds on his birthday as India crushed South Africa at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday to win their 8th successive match at the 2023 World Cup and assure themselves of the No.1 spot in the points table. Only once before have India won 8 matches on-the-trot in an ODI World Cup and that happened 20 years ago in 2003. 

South Africa were set 327 to win but they were blown away by an Indian bowling attack which is now the envy of the world. Jasprit Bumrah was unplayable, Mohammed Siraj dismissed Quinton de Kock, the highest run-scorer in the World Cup, Mohammed Shami picked a few more wickets and Ravindra Jadeja starred with 5 for 33. South Africa had no chance against these bowlers. No team has been able to stand up to this lot.

India and South Africa had already qualified for the semifinals before Sunday but there was still plenty of interest around the top-of-the-table clash. But it turned out to be a one-sided contest as India steamrolled the Proteas after deciding to bat first on a tricky pitch.

India's victory

over South Africa was the perfect example of skills and tactical brilliance. Rohit Sharma, as he has done so often in the World Cup, went took on the new-ball bowlers and blazed away to a rapid 40. The India captain knew run-scoring would get difficult with the ball getting older and softer; so, he threw caution to the wind and took the attack to Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen, one of the leading wicket-takers in the tournament. Rohit's opening partner Shubman Gill, the leading ODI run-scorer this year, was also willing to take some risks but his innings was short-lived.

The focus shifted to Virat Kohli very swiftly. All the pre-match chatter was on Kohli's 49th hundred which would put him on equal terms with his hero, Sachin Tendulkar. It was a magical number. Over the last few weeks, Kohli had come close to the landmark a couple times. After his hundred against Bangladesh, Kohli fell for 95 (against New Zealand) and 88 (against Sri Lanka). It was just as well Virat Kohli reached the milestone before the semifinals. And it was just as well he got there at the Eden Gardens, the same venue where he got his maiden ODI hundred 14 years ago.
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