06 March 2015
Dhoni, bowlers steer India to quarterfinals
Captain hits unbeaten 45 to help side secure four-wicket win after West Indies was bowled out for 182
MS Dhoni was unbeaten on 45, his partnership with R Ashwin worth 51.
The WACA ground was the stage for gripping theatre on a tense Friday (March 6). West Indies needed to win to stay alive in Pool B, India needed the victory to formalise its entry into the last-eight stage. This already had the trappings of a fascinating contest; the fact that that 17,557 predominantly India but some West Indies supporters too provided a wonderful backdrop of noise and music merely added to the festivities that generally accompany India's victories.
Through Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma, India bowled the lengths normally associated with West Indies after Jason Holder opted to bat on winning the toss – short, just outside off, pushing the batsmen on to the back foot. It paid handsome dividends as West Indies made a poor start – that it managed to lift itself to 182 was thanks largely to a wonderful half-century from Holder, playing a lone hand at No. 9 – and it was the first time since 2006 that India had bowled out its opponents four games in a row in ODI cricket.
Chasing its fourth consecutive victory and looking to equal its ICC Cricket World Cup streak of eight successive wins achieved in 2003 between defeats to Australia, India had to dig deep. At various stages, West Indies appeared set to upset its applecart until the cool head of Mahendra Singh Dhoni carried the day for the defending champion. India eventually completed a four-wicket victory and sealed its quarterfinal appearance, reaching 185 for 6 with 65 deliveries to spare.
In this day and age, 182 might not appear a massive total, but the conditions meant they were worth at least 30 more. When India came out to bat, the lights had taken effect and the ball was swinging around quite generously – it had nipped around in the afternoon too, but not to the same degree – and Jerome Taylor bowled fullish and outside off, enough to elicit loose drives and decisive outside edges.
Both Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma were gobbled up behind the stumps, the former driving off the back foot and the latter off the front, and for the first time in the competition, India’s No. 4 was walking out with less than 100 on the board. Ajinkya Rahane watched with no little admiration as Virat Kohli produced a masterclass. Kohli batted quite superbly, producing easily the innings of the game as he drove sublimely down the ground with fabulous timing and excellent hand-eye coordination.
Kohli appeared determined to take the team home all on his own before perishing to the pull, the undoing of many before him and Ravindra Jadeja after him. It sparked a wobble of sorts; India scored freely but West Indies kept itself in the game with timely strikes. Rahane was caught behind off Kemar Roach, brought in to the XI ahead of left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn, while Suresh Raina chased an innocuous delivery from Dwayne Smith and Jadeja fell with the finish line still 49 runs away.
But Dhoni found a willing ally in R Ashwin and the pressure began to tell on West Indies as it conceded 19 wides and 3 no-balls. Dhoni scrapped and battled like he normally does, in no particular hurry but unshakable in his desire to get the job done. It wasn’t pretty, but it sure was effective. He was unbeaten on 45 when he brought up the winning runs, his stand with Ashwin worth 51.
Once Holder decided to bat first, with the ball zipping and nipping around, the Indian pace troika feasted on the uncertainty gnawing away at the hearts of the batsmen. With Shami back in action – having recovered from a knee injury, he replaced Bhuvneshwar Kumar – India were back to its best XI, its best pace combine; unsurprisingly, Shami was the leader of the bowling pack, snipping at the batsmen's heels and heads and working his way through the order with the practised expertise of a past master.
There wasn’t just pace and bounce, there was also decent swing even in the afternoon, and all three quicks made capital of all the assistance that came their way, Shami’s opening salvo against Chris Gayle was especially impressive, the dangerous batsman given no opportunity to get under the ball and strike long miles. Yadav was faster, as much in control and asking as many questions of the top order, while Mohit backed up the new-ball pair.
Smith started with a rasping cut off Shami in the opening over, getting on top of the bounce and slapping the ball hard and behind point. However, his patience ran out against Shami; then, Marlon Samuels was run out after a horrible mix-up with Gayle, and West Indies was in early trouble.
Gayle briefly summoned reserves of fortitude to take the attack to the bowling, but was caught on the pull after having been put down twice, both difficult catches in the deep. When Denesh Ramdin dragged Yadav on to his stumps first ball, West Indies was 35 for 4, the tenth time it had lost four wickets before reaching 50 in ODIs against India.
Jonathan Carter and Lendl Simmons briefly steadied the ship, but West Indies was in danger of being bowled out for under 100 when they were joined in the hut by Andre Russell.
It was 85 for 7 when Holder walked out to join Darren Sammy, who had by then already been dropped at point by Jadeja. Sammy chugged along quietly with the captain equally cautious and circumspect. The tall men offered a dead blade to the spin of Ashwin and Jadeja, and rode the bounce well against the pacers when Shami returned in the Batting Power Play to fire out Sammy with his fourth delivery.
Holder then decided to switch gears. Using the long levers to excellent effect, he struck the ball straight, clean and beautiful, effortlessly transferring the pressure. Rohit put down another straightforward catch at mid-on as Taylor engaged his captain in a crucial stand of 51 for the ninth wicket.
It was an association dominated entirely by Holder. He didn’t farm the bowling – Taylor faced 18 off the 44-delivery span of the alliance – but whenever he came on strike, Holder smashed the ball a long way. He rattled from 13 off 31 deliveries at Sammy’s dismissal to his 50 in just 56 deliveries, and was eventually last man dismissed.
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