On a spin-friendly Trent Bridge surface, South Africa's slow bowlers rubbed salt and some spices into India's gaping World Twenty20 wounds, defending a modest total of 130 with consummate ease. The real difference between the sides though was AB de Villiers, who batted quite magnificently for a 51-ball 63 on a pitch where no other batsman excelled. With the ball, Johan Botha took 3 for 16, and was superbly supported by Roelof van der Merwe (1 for 13) as India stumbled from 47 for 0 at the end of the Powerplay overs to 69 for 5.
The two Punjabis, Yuvraj and Harbhajan Singh, briefly floated some hope, but Botha and Dale Steyn snuffed out the challenge to send South Africa through to the semi-final undefeated. They will face Pakistan at the same venue on Thursday. In conditions that could have been anywhere in the subcontinent, India will wonder just how they were so well beaten.
They had started with some panache, as Gautam Gambhir creamed both Steyn and Wayne Parnell through the covers. Soon after, Rohit Sharma took over, clipping both Parnell and Albie Morkel through midwicket to keep well ahead of the asking rate. But as soon as spin was introduced, India fell apart.
Gambhir spooned Botha to deep cover, and Suresh Raina clubbed one straight to long-on. Rohit then miscued a big heave off JP Duminy to point as South Africa restricted the Indians to just 17 from six overs. But the calamity didn't end there. MS Dhoni scratched around for 5 before deciding on a headless-chicken charge down the pitch with Yuvraj not remotely interested. Morne Morkel gathered Mark Boucher's throw and removed the bails.
Yusuf Pathan may have been the scourge of spin in the IPL but he made no impression on this match, popping a van der Merwe delivery to short cover. Yuvraj pulled Steyn for four and went down on bended knee to swipe van der Merwe for six, while Harbhajan wound up and thumped Morne Morkel straight down the ground, but it was all a little too late.
South Africa's innings had followed a similar sort of pattern. None of the other batsmen looked remotely at ease once the pace was taken off the ball, and India's pace bowlers were left to watch from the outfield until Zaheer Khan was called on to complete the innings.
Despite losing Herschelle Gibbs to a inside-edged mow off RP Singh, South Africa had made a dominant start, racing to 44 from the first five overs. Both Graeme Smith and de Villiers cut powerfully, and there was one magnificent straight drive from de Villiers when Ishant Sharma pitched too full. That was enough for Dhoni to decide that his pacemen weren't the answer. Ravindra Jadeja came on and conceded only three in the last of the Powerplay overs, and thereafter Dhoni rotated his slow bowlers rapidly. Rohit, a bit of a bowling star in the IPL, came on, as did Yuvraj, but the breakthrough came courtesy the specialist as Smith top-edged a heave off Harbhajan to square leg. After that, it was a struggle.
De Villiers scored with pushes and nudges, but only 36 runs came in the eight overs after the pace bowlers were taken off. Something had to give, and the push inevitably came from de Villiers, who lofted Yuvraj over cover before swiping one down to the midwicket rope. That stroke also took him to his half-century from 41 deliveries.
When he then clipped Raina neatly for four more, a charge seemed imminent. But it wasn't to be. Duminy was stumped of Raina and the extremely accurate Jadeja shone again, taking a steepling return catch after a big miscue from de Villiers. Zaheer snaffled Mark Boucher in an 11-run final over, but with the resources in hand, India were favourites to chase down the 131 needed for a consolation victory. But in keeping with the rest of their Super Eights displays, they just weren't good enough. On this evidence, South Africa most certainly are.