India's Shikhar Dhawan reacts as he reaches 100 runs not out. -Photo by AP
CARDIFF: Shikhar Dhawan smashed 114 off 94 balls as India defeated South Africa by 26 runs in the opening match of the Champions Trophy in Cardiff on Thursday.
The left-hander led a batting feast by the Indians, who piled up 331-7 against a depleted attack that took the field without premier fast bowler Dale Steyn due to a side strain.
South Africa replied with 305 all out following a defiant century stand between skipper AB de Villiers and pinch-hitter Robin Peterson for the third wicket.
De Villiers hit 70 off 71 balls, his sixth half-century in the last eight one-dayers and the fourth in succession. Peterson made a career-best 68.
Ryan McLaren gave India a fright towards the end with an unbeaten 71 off 61 balls, adding 48 for the last wicket with Morne Morkel, but the effort was not enough to snatch a dramatic win.
Dhawan put on 127 for the first wicket with Rohit Sharma (65) and 83 off 77 balls for the second with Virat Kohli (31) as overcast conditions at the toss made way for bright sunshine.
India slipped from 210-1 to 260-5, but an unbeaten 47 from 29 balls by Ravindra Jadeja steered the World Cup champions past the 300-run mark.
Jadeja also starred in the field as he took the wickets of JP Duminy and Lonwabo Tsotsobe, ran out Peterson and caught de Villiers at mid-wicket.
South Africa lost both openers, Colin Ingram and Hashim Amla, by the fourth over, before de Villiers and Peterson swung the match around by adding 124 for the third wicket.
The duo kept the scoreboard moving with smart running between the wickets and punished the loose ball to stay ahead of the required run-rate.
It needed quick reflexes from Jadeja to break the stand in the 25th over when he dived at mid-wicket to stop the ball and catch Peterson short of his ground.
Left-handed Peterson, whose best score in 68 previous one-dayers was 44, hit six boundaries.
South Africa, who were 182-3 at one stage, lost three wickets in the space of six runs to put India on top again.
Dhawan, a 27-year-old from New Delhi, rose to fame in March when he plundered the Australian attack for 187 off 174 balls on his Test debut.
He appeared to continue in the same vein, hammering 12 boundaries and a six, and reached his maiden one-day century with two consecutive boundaries off seamer Rory Kleinveldt.
South Africa next play Pakistan in Birmingham on Monday, while India take on the West Indies at the Oval in London on Tuesday.
Teams: India: Shikar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav
South Africa: Hashim Amla, Colin Ingram, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (captain), JP Duminy, David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Robin Peterson, Rory Kleinvelt, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe