The World Cup finally reached Eden Gardens, and the sparse crowd that turned up on an overcast day were treated to a JP Duminy special that lifted South Africa from the dumps, and set up a facile win. Ireland's effort began like a dream and ended like a nightmare as they showcased the inconsistency that holds back upwardly-mobile Associate teams. There was disciplined, if somewhat limited, bowling; there were breath-taking fielding efforts to go with grassed sitters; and there was the glaring inability to land the knockout punch, as they let things drift after hustling their opponents into a corner. Duminy was ready when they ran out of steam, and made them pay with a well-paced innings.
If Dale Steyn doesn't get you, Morne Morkel will, and Ireland found this out the hard way, chasing a tall score on a wicket with true bounce. Morkel removed the openers with his menacing lengths and the back-up bowlers, led by Robin Peterson, ensured there was no escape route for the middle order. Under lights, the game petered out into a mismatch, Ireland's first in a spirited World Cup campaign, and confirmed South Africa's entry into the quarters, while the jostling continues for the remaining spots from Group B.
The one-sided finish seemed unlikely when Ireland's trademark enthusiasm had reduced South Africa to 117 for 5 by the 27th over. Ireland's initial brilliance was epitomised by two outstanding efforts on the field - first, George Dockrell moved rapidly to his left from a widish third man, tumbled, yet held on to a fierce upper cut from Hashim Amla. Then, John Mooney caught a struggling Graeme Smith short with a fierce pick up and throw from midwicket. Smith's exit in the tenth over exposed South Africa's middle order and they continued to wobble as Jacques Kallis was run out for the second successive innings, and Faf du Plessis guided tamely into the slips. Ironically, AB de Villiers' replacement helped South Africa stem the rot that might have never set in if he had been playing. de Villiers' absence allowed Morne van Wyk to bat at No. 3 and Colin Ingram at No. 7, and both batsmen played crucial hands to propel South Africa.
By his own admission, van Wyk's batting is not "poetry in motion", and his cameo at No. 3 justified that evaluation. His loose on-the-up drives without much foot movement left him prone to edges and soft dismissals, and he was lucky to escape twice, with Kevin O'Brien and Paul Stirling spilling straightforward chances. The reprieves had no impact on van Wyk, who kept backing himself to clear the infield, until George Dockrell slipped a perceptive arm-ball past him in the 16th over. van Wyk had by then provided the early momentum, that allowed Duminy and Ingram the time to settle in before turning things around.
Duminy initially chose caution against Dockrell's attacking line outside off, one that spinners have used to torment in him the past. He kept deflecting and nudging, lapping and steering for ones and twos, and his inventiveness inevitably led to the Irish dropping their guard. Ingram cashed in when they delivered loose deliveries, targeting the square fields with a series of powerful horizontal-bat shots. Johnston castled him in the 40th over, but by then South Africa had wrested control.
In the meantime, Duminy had seamlessly shifted gears from nurdle to attack mode, and was on the verge of hitting overdrive. After 46 boundary-less balls, his first four came through the most audacious of reverse-sweeps. By the time he brought up his half-century, caressing Johnston into the covers, his strike-rate was nudging the 80s. Ingram's dismissal forced him to reassess the situation, and he chose to delay the Powerplay to the absolute end.
He had chugged along to 68 when the Powerplay came on by default in the 46th over. A couple of quiet overs from Mooney and Boyd Rankin suggested a whimpering finish. Duminy, however, lined up Trent Johnston for special treatment in the 49th over, dumping him for four and six over the leg side, before forcing another boundary to third man. With three balls to go, and 99 against his name, Duminy did not push the single. He instead looked for the straight six and perished in the outfield. In a sense, it was a fitting end to an innings that was all about shot selection and selflessness.
- The win is South Africa's seventh by a margin of hundred or more runs in World Cups. The 131-run margin of defeat is Ireland's biggest in World Cups, surpassing their 129-run loss to New Zealand in 2007.
- Eden Gardens hosted its 23rd ODI, the most for any ground in India. It has hosted 14 day-night games, which is the third highest among all Indian grounds.
- JP Duminy's became the second batsman after Adam Gilchrist to be dismissed for 99 in a World Cup match. Overall, there have been 36 occasions when a player has been dismissed in the nineties in World Cups.
- The 87-run stand between Duminy and Colin Ingram is the highest for the sixth wicket for South Africa in World Cups. The highest sixth-wicket stand for South Africa in ODIs is the 137 between Hansie Cronje and Shaun Pollock against Zimbabwe in 1997.
- The 76 runs conceded by Trent Johnston in his ten overs is the highest by an Irish bowler in a World Cup (completed spell of ten overs). The highest number of runs conceded by an Irish bowler in ODIs is 95 in nine overs by Peter Connell against New Zealand in 2008.
- Robin Peterson's 3 for 32 is his third three-wicket haul and his second-best bowling performance in ODIs after his 3 for 22 against England in Chennai.