Shikhar Dhawan smashed his way into the record books with a breathtaking 248-run knock, which singlehandedly guided India ‘A’ to a 39-run victory over a fighting South Africa 'A' and into the tri-series final, at the LC de Villiers Oval, in Pretoria on Monday.
The 27-year-old Delhi left-hander blasted a 150-ball-248, which is only the second highest individual List A score, behind former Surrey batsman Alistair Brown's 268, against Glamorgan at the Oval, on July 19, 2002.
Riding on Dhawan's brilliance and some solid support from skipper Cheteshwar Pujara (109 not out), India ‘A’ amassed a mammoth 433 for three in 50 overs.
The target was a tall-order for the home team but their batsmen fought hard before being dismissed for 394 in 48.4 overs.
Reeza Hendricks (102, 78 balls, 12x4, 2x6) and Vaughn van Jaarsveld's (108, 91 balls, 7x4, 5x6) centuries were unable to take the hosts past the finishing line.
India ‘A’ will meet Australia ‘A’ in the final on Wednesday.
The day undoubtedly belonged to Dhawan, who hit 30 boundaries and seven sixes in his innings, during which he surpassed Sachin Tendulkar's 200 not out against South Africa in 2010 at Gwalior and Virender Sehwag's 219 against West Indies in Indore back in 2011.
If Dhawan's first 100 came off only 86 balls, the second was even faster, off only 46, as he raced to his maiden List A double hundred off 132 balls with a glide off left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks's bowling.
Just when it looked like he would eclipse the world record, he was caught by wicketkeeper Dane Vilas of Rusty Theron's bowling while attempting another slog-shot.
Such was his domination that 162 of his 248 runs came from only 37 scoring strokes.
Dhawan added 285 runs in only 33.5 overs with skipper Pujara, who also helped himself to the three-figure mark off 97 balls, which included eight boundaries.
Dhawan started smashing the bowlers from the word 'go'. The first ball of the match, bowled by seamer Hardus Viljoen, was driven towards long-on for a boundary.
In Viljoen's second, the third over of the innings, he hit the bowler for three consecutive boundaries, something he repeated when left-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe came in to bowl.
The moment a bowler pitched short, Dhawan rocked back to pull the deliveries in the region between deep mid-wicket and deep square leg. If he got fuller deliveries, he launched into it and ferociously drove in the arc between cover and mid-off. If there was width outside the off-stump, then the square cut came into play.
He reached his 100 off 86 balls with a four of Van der Merwe's bowling.
As if to celebrate his milestone, he lofted pacer Theron over cover for successive sixes. Theron (1/98 in 10 overs) and Viljoen (1/94 in 8 overs) were taken to the cleaners. They gave away 192 runs in 18 overs, courtesy Dhawan.
The pitches at the LC De Villiers stadium are as flat as the one available at Rajkot. A whopping 827 runs were scored in 98.4 overs.
The Indian bowlers did have torrid time as Hendricks and Rile Russouw (43) clobbered the visitors for 121 runs in only 12.1 overs.
Young fast bowler Ishwar Chand Pandey (4/76) did get vital breakthroughs in the slog overs but not before getting a pasting from the Proteas batsmen.
Even more scarier than the opening stand was the 89-run sixth-wicket stand between Van Jaarsveld and Van der Merwe (36) before Pandey dismissed the duo in a space of three deliveries to finally ensure India victory.
S Dhawan c Vilas b Theron 248
M Vijay c Vilas b B Hendricks 40
C Pujara not out 109
S Raina c van der Merwe b Viljoen 6
D Karthik not out 18
Extras: (b 1, lb 2, w 9) 12
Total: (for three wickets) 433
Fall of wickets: 1-91, 2-376, 3-386
Bowling: G Viljoen 8-0-94-1(3w), J Theron 10-0-98-1(3w), R van der Merwe 7-0-61-0, B Hendricks 9-0-62-1, D Piedt 10-0-68-0, J Ontong 3-0-15-0(1w), VB van Jaarsveld 3-0-32-0.
South Africa 'A'
R Hendricks b Binny 106
R Rossouw b Nadeem 43
D Elgar c Pujara b Raina 15
V van Jaarsveld c Raina b Pandey 108
J Ontong c Parvez Rasool b Dhawan 49
D Vilas c & b Pandey 2
R van der Merwe c Dhawan b Pandey 36
J Theron b Unadkat 7
D Piedt c Nadeem b Unadkat 0
G Viljoen b Pandey 7
B Hendricks not out 24
Extras: (b 4, lb 7, w 5, nb 3) 19
Total: (in 48.4 overs) 394
Fall of wickets: 1-121, 2-140, 3-203, 4-281, 5-287, 6-376, 7-378, 8-378, 9-388, 10-394.
Bowling: J Unadkat 8.4-0-79-2, I Pandey 9-0-76-4(3nb, 1w), Parvez Rasool 10-0-75-0(2w), S Raina 6-0-35-1, S Nadeem 7-0-52-1(1w), S Binny 5-0-42-1, S Dhawan 3-0-24-1(1w).
Image: Shikhar Dhawan