began with Mo Farah-esque strides and ended with an Usain Bolt-like burst to plunder 248 off 150 balls - the second-highest
List A score ever and the record for an A-team - out of India A's giddying 433 for 3, in the virtual semi-final against South Africa A in Pretoria. South Africa, in reply, made the most of a flat pitch and short boundaries to come close to the target and only ran out of steam towards the end to lose by 39 runs.
India had chosen to bat and the innings started with Dhawan driving one straight down the ground. A flurry of boundaries helped Dhawan and his new partner at the top, M Vijay, scoot to 91 in the 12th over, but as Pujara joined Dhawan after Vijay was caught behind for 40, there was a quiet period as the run rate dropped to below seven. It was merely the quiet before the violence.
Dhawan arrived at the century-mark off 86 balls with a straight-driven boundary in the 27th over, and found his nitro booster to rocket from there on. In the 28th over, he smashed his first six, off Juan Theron, and immediately followed it with another. The projected team total was constantly being readjusted to higher levels as Dhawan kept finding the boundaries in an unprecedented attack. His second hundred came at almost double the rate as his first, taking 46 balls, as he smashed his way to becoming only the third Indian to record a double-century in limited-overs cricket after Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. At the other end, Cheteshwar Pujara had quietly brought up his own fifty off 54 balls.
Dhawan would not have got his double century had Rusty Theron held on to a chance off the bowling of Roelof van der Merwe when Dhawan was on 154, but with 10 overs still left when he got past that landmark, the 11-year-old record of the highest List A score of 268 looked well within his reach. He fell 20 runs short of it to finish second best. Pujara's unbeaten 109 off 97 seemed mild in comparison. The two batsmen scored 285 runs together in 33.2 overs, 198 of which came from Dhawan's bat.
South Africa's bowling unit also entered record books as this was the first instance of five bowlers giving away more than 60 runs each in a List A match, but they were not the only ones to suffer. India's bowlers were meted out the same treatment as South Africa openers Reeze Hendricks and Rilee Rossouw rampaged their way to 121 by the 13th over and a repeat of South Africa's senior side's memorable night
seven years ago didn't appear improbable.
A couple of quick wickets fell to the spinners, but Hendricks hammered a 75-ball hundred to take South Africa past 200 in the 25th over. The ball frequently disappeared to the adjacent net-ball courts as South Africa remained abreast with the required rate.
After the dismissal of Hendricks, the required rate went over 10-an-over for the first time in the 32nd over, but Vaughn van Jaarsveld, with helpful cameos from Justin Ontong and Roelof van der Merwe, kept up the hope. Van Jaarsveld fell soon after reaching to his century, top-edging an Ishwar Pandey slower delivery to mid-off, effectively ending South Africa's challenge, as India mopped up the remaining batsmen quickly. However, on a batsman's day, Dhawan's knock proved to be the difference.