Shikhar Dhawan India
India opener Shikhar Dhawan hits a boundary during his 114 against South Africa in the opening match of the ICC Champions TrophyReuters

Shikhar Dhawan has this wonderful elegance about him, coupled with an arrogance - which you cannot help but like - that makes him currently one of the most joyful batsmen to watch.

The Indian opener had one of those days again - you know where everything he touches turns into gold, platinum, diamond and all the other expensive gems you can name - smashing a brilliant century to guide India to a 26-run win over South Africa in the opening match of the Champions Trophy 2013 in Cardiff.

Asked to bat first on a chilly morning in Wales, India pressed the overdrive button right from the word go, posting a massive 331 for seven from their 50 overs, thanks largely to a perfect 127-run opening partnership between Rohit Sharma (65) and Dhawan (114 in 94 balls).

AB De Villiers and Robin Peterson threatened to rain on India's parade, allying for their own century partnership, but the total proved to be too much in the end, despite Ryan McLaren's valiant 71 (61b, 11x4, 1x6) as South Africa folded up for 305 in 50 overs.

The South African run chase did not begin well, with both openers Hashim Amla and Colin Ingram falling early.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar (two for 49) found the outside edge of Ingram in just the third over, with Raina completing the catch at second slip.

Ten balls later Amla (22, 15b, 4x4) was also walking back, with the classy right-hander finding an inside edge off Umesh Yadav to wicketkeeper MS Dhoni.

Then came the big partnership of the South African innings, with captain AB De Villiers and Robin Peterson, sent in at No.3 as a pinch-hitter, putting together 124 runs in as many balls for the third wicket.

The duo played some outstanding shots, with De Villiers, whose innings was packed with wonderful drives through the offside, in particular, a sight for sore eyes.

However, just like when India lost a few wickets after the big opening partnership, South Africa also suffered a mini-collapse once the partnership was broken via a run out, with Peterson (68, 72b, 6x4) the unfortunate victim.

JP Duminy only managed 14, before the man with the golden arm -- Ravindra Jadeja - trapped the left-hander in front of the wicket.

As long as De Villiers was in the crease, the chase was very much possible, but a short ball from Yadav (two for 75) induced a top edge, which Jadeja, who also picked up two wickets, gleefully gobbled up as the skipper fell for 70 (71b, 7x4).

David Miller, the man who single-handedly won a game in the IPL not so long ago, also fell prey to an avoidable run out, without facing a single delivery, as South Africa suddenly went from 155 for two in 24.2 overs to 188 for six in 31.4 overs, leaving the Proteas needing a further 148 runs in a little over 18 overs.

Faf Du Plessis and Ryan McLaren raised hopes of a stunning comeback with a lightning 50-run partnership from just 4.4 overs, but once the former fell for 30 (23b, 5x4) the writing was on the wall, with McLaren waging a defiant yet futile battle until the inevitable end.

Earlier, it was all India as Shikhar Dhawan provided another batting masterclass to stud his side's 331 for seven.

The two warm-up matches prior to the Champions Trophy opener was all about some brilliant middle-order batting from the Indians, after finding themselves in deep trouble following the dismissal of the top order, particularly the openers.

Rohit Sharma was unsurprisingly chosen over Murali Vijay, who has never convinced in the ODIs, and the Mumbai batsman provided India with the perfect platform in the company of the irrepressible Dhawan.

With temperatures under 10 degrees in Cardiff, India were supposed to be put to the test by the sturdy fast bowlers of South Africa, even without their prime bowler Dale Steyn.

However, it did not quite go according to plan as the capacity crowd, filled with majority of Indian fans, were treated to a batting show from MS Dhoni's men.

South Africa peppered the Indian openers with short deliveries - and a couple of them did hit the helmets - but the modern day Indian batsmen are not too wary of the shorter ones and it proved to be the case, as Rohit, in particular, and Dhawan rocked back onto the back foot to hit several wonderful pull and hook shots for boundaries.

India negotiated the first ten powerplay overs comfortably, reaching 53 for no loss. Now was the time for South Africa to implement Plan B, because the short ball was clearly not doing the trick - if anything, it was only fuelling India's surge.

However, despite having former India coach Gary Kirsten at the helm, the Proteas kept at it with the short stuff and the Indians kept sending the ball to the boundary, as they raced to a serene 123 in 20 overs.

Rohit, who looked on course for a hundred, gave his wicket away in the 22nd over, after scoring a sound 81-ball 65 (8x4, 1x6), just flicking an innocuous delivery from Ryan McLaren to Robin Peterson at deep square-leg.

Dhawan had just reached his half-century, off 44 deliveries by then, and the left-hander, who had not been given too much of the strike, picked up from where Rohit had left off - in the inimitable Dhawan style of course.

The left-arm spinner Peterson was smashed all around the park, while the likes of Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Rory Kleinveldt did not fare too well either.

India reached the 200-run mark in the 34th over and to make matter worse South Africa were dealt a double blow when Morne Morkel, their best bowler in the absence of Steyn, walked off after feeling his hamstring.

AB De Villiers now had to find three extra overs from somewhere, and JP Duminy eased the pressure off his skipper, by bowling a brilliant ten overs, conceding just 42 runs, while picking up the wicket of the century-maker Dhawan.

India lost their way a bit in the latter-middle overs, losing four wickets for just 50 runs, but that did not take anything away from the wonderful hundred crafted by Dhawan (114, 94b, 12x4, 1x6), who reached the three-figure mark with a couple of typically brilliant boundaries, and in just 80 deliveries.

Kohli (31, 41b, 2x4) fell soon after that, holing out to Amla off Tsotsobe, before Duminy picked up Dhawan, who found one of the short fine-leg fielders while attempting a sweep over the 30-yard circle.

Dinesh Karthik (14) and Suresh Raina (9) fell without troubling the scorers too much, while there was to be no magical innings at the finish from Dhoni (27, 26b, 3x4), with Ravindra Jadeja making a quickfire 47 not out (29b, 7x4, 1x6) to propel his side beyond the 330-run mark.

Quick Links