|MS Dhoni stumps out JP Duminy but in the end India were unable to book their place in the quarters [AFP]
India’s unbeaten streak at the Cricket World Cup came to an end when South Africa, needing 13 runs off the last over, pulled of a thrilling three-wicket win over the co-hosts at Nagpur on Saturday.
The South African victory was inspired by a game-changing bowling spell of 5-50 from man-of-the-match Dale Steyn, who limited India to 296 after Sachin Tendulkar had scored a magnificent century.
India lost their last nine wickets for just 29 runs as the host nation collapsed from 267-1 and South Africa managed 300-7, hitting the winning runs in the Group B game with two balls to spare.
Needing 13 to win in the last over off seamer Ashish Nehra, South Africa found an unlikely star in Robin Peterson who plundered 16 runs off the first four balls to help his side achieve a 297-run target.
"For 15 overs up front we took an absolute beating but for 75 we played some incredible cricket," said South Africa skipper Graeme Smith.
"Chasing 300 on that deck, second innings was a hell of an effort from the guys and I think we're all pretty speechless at the moment."
Jacques Kallis (69), Hashim Amla (61), AB de Villiers (52), Faf du Plessis (25 not out) and JP Duminy (23) also contributed to South Africa's win.
Tendulkar earlier dominated the South African attack, cracking three sixes and eight fours in a 101-ball knock.
He now needs just one more century to become the first player to score 100 international hundreds, having already made 51 in Test cricket.
V Sehwag b du Plessis 73
S Tendulkar c Duminy b Morkel 111
G Gambhir c Kallis b Steyn 69
Y Pathan c Smith b Steyn 0
Y Singh c Botha b Kallis 12
MS Dhoni not out 12
V Kohli c & b Peterson 1
H Singh b Steyn 3
Z Khan c Morkel b Peterson 0
A Nehra c Smith b Steyn 0
M Patel b Steyn 0
Total (all out; 48.4 overs) 296
Fall of wickets: 1-142 2-267 3-268 4-268 5-283 6-286 7-293 8-294 9-296
South Africa innings
G Smith c Tendulkar b Khan 16
H Amla c Dhoni b H Singh 61
J Kallis run out 69
AB de Villiers c Kohli b H Singh 52
JP Duminy st Dhoni b H Singh 23
F du Plessis not out 25
M van Wyk lbw b Patel 5
J Botha c sub b Patel 23
R Peterson not out 18
Total (for seven wickets; 49.4 overs) 300
Fall of wickets: 1-41 2-127 3-173 4-223 5-238 6-247 7-279
South Africa's attack came under pressure for the first time in four matches as Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag (73) and Gautam Gambhir (69) comfortably gathered runs against pace and spin, much to the delight of a capacity crowd.
India made the most of winning the toss on an easy-paced pitch as Sehwag and Tendulkar provided an explosive 142-run start off just 17.4 overs.
Gambhir continued the good work, adding 125 for the second wicket with Tendulkar.
Sehwag, who survived on four and 70, hammered 12 fours in his 66-ball knock. He began his fifth successive innings with a four when he lofted Steyn over mid-on.
He had a lucky escape in the next over, his edge off paceman Morne Morkel flying past wicket-keeper Morne van Wyk.
Sehwag did not curb his strokes after the let-off, smashing Steyn for two more boundaries and then punishing Morkel for three fours in an over as India raced to 50 off just 41 balls.
Runs flowed from both the ends as Tendulkar also fluently drove Morkel through the covers and then straight-drove the next delivery for two successive fours.
Tendulkar offered a difficult chance on 47 when he lofted left-arm spinner Peterson over extra cover but de Villiers, running in from long-off, failed to hold on to the ball even after making a fine diving effort.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni defended his team's tactics in the latter part of their innings when wickets collapsed and runs dried up.
"You don't play for the crowds. They always want you to hit sixes and fours," he said.
"It's always better that the batsmen play the overs, delay the slog a bit and get maybe a par score and don't look for that extra 20 or 25 runs."
India were left to rue their missed chances as they could have sealed their place in the last eight with victory on Saturday.
They still top Group B with seven points from five matches followed by West Indies (6/4), South Africa (6/4), England (5/5) and Bangladesh (4/4) as the pool heads for a thrilling conclusion in the final week of first round games.