Cricketer’s feat advances India at tourney

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Cricketer’s feat advances India at tourney

GROS ISLET, Saint Lucia - Suresh Raina praised the influence of India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten after he became only the third player to score a Twenty20 international hundred.

Left-hander Raina’s 101 was the cornerstone of India’s 186 for five against South Africa here on Sunday. The Proteas finished on 172 for five and India’s 14-run win saw them into the second round after they opened their group campaign with a comfortable victory over Afghanistan here on Saturday.

Raina has tended to play second fiddle to the likes of Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, but here he was center stage in joining West Indies captain Chris Gayle and New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum as the only century-makers at this level.

Playing alongside Dhoni in the Indian Premier League appears to have been a real boon to Raina.

“Mahi [Dhoni] helped me a lot in the IPL,” said Raina. “The senior players, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, have also supported me throughout.

“I’ve played five or six years of international cricket, it’s important to fulfil the dreams they’ve had for me.”

Raina had an escape on five when he was caught off a Morne Morkel no-ball. But Kirsten, a former South Africa opening batsman, would have been proud of the way Raina made the most of his reprieve.

Raina admitted he’d struggled early on. “I was not hitting the ball when I came in. I was thinking ‘just rotate the strike’ and when I get a loose ball just go for it.”

Fast bowler Morkel’s error was expensive, with Raina striking five sixes and nine fours in a blistering assault as he reached his century off 59 balls.

Meanwhile South Africa captain Graeme Smith said his team had plenty to ponder ahead of their decisive clash against rank outsiders Afghanistan in Barbados tomorrow.

India struck a colossal 75 runs off the last five overs of their innings and Smith said: “We started well with the ball, 160 was par and we were on track for [conceding] that until Raina got hold of us at the back end.”

Smith added he and Jacques Kallis made life tough on their teammates lower down the order during the run chase.

“Myself and Jacques probably left it a bit late for the other guys. It was disappointing, when you are chasing a total and you end up 15 runs short of whatever it is and not all your guys get a chance to have a whack.

“We’ve definitely got to sharpen up before we play Afghanistan,” said the left-handed batsman. “We’ve got some things to work on and to think about.”

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