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28 February 201519:00

Ashwin leads India to easy win

Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli turn it on with the bat after UAE puts up only 102 on the board

Ashwin leads India to easy win - Cricket News

India started its World Cup campaign with a bang, defeating arch-rival Pakistan in a one-sided affair in Adelaide.

A day before the game against India, Mohammad Tauqir had spoken of how his UAE side wouldn’t be intimidated by the big guns India had. But on Saturday (February 28), UAE couldn’t stop the Indian juggernaut that, despite not firing at full potential, was far too powerful.

Rocked and softened by the kind of sustained pace and bounce its batsmen aren’t accustomed to, UAE was then teased by spin, again of the quality the batsmen haven’t encountered too often. If the first threatened, the second asked questions. On the day UAE had no convincing answers as Saturday’s (February 28) ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Group B match unspooled into a one-sided contest.

UAE won the toss, Tauqir opting to bat after calling correctly in the hope that without the pressure of a chase, his batsmen would be able to post a reasonable score to extend the match as long into the evening as possible. However, UAE lasted just 31.3 overs and 129 minutes before being bowled out for 102 by clinical rather than outstanding India. It was UAE’s lowest World Cup score and the lowest score by any team against India in a World Cup match.

Umesh Yadav had set himself up as the early enforcer but the wrecker-in-chief was R Ashwin, positively outstanding with his mesmeric guile on his way to 4 for 25 from ten unchanged overs, his best figures in ODI cricket.

The day’s other encounter, the Tasman Derby, had lasted just 55.3 overs as New Zealand pulled off a one-wicket thriller in Auckland. This game was done and dusted in 50.2 overs as India, chasing for the first time in three games, hurtled to 104 for 1 in 18.5 overs. The nine-wicket win, India’s seventh on the trot in World Cups, has all but mathematically sealed its place in the quarterfinals.

Shikhar Dhawan, again looking a million dollars, fell to an extraordinary overhead catch by Rohan Mustafa leaping at point, but Rohit Sharma played himself back into the runs and Virat Kohli delighted a WACA audience against an enterprising attack with Manjula Guruge the most impactful.

Mohammad Naveed worked up decent speeds and Guruge slanted the ball across Rohit with his left-arm-over angle, but apart from a few minor hiccups, India was hardly troubled. Rohit used the muscular pull with as much effect as the delicate caress through covers his way to a dazzling half-century. When he danced in on Dhawan’s fall, Kohli received the loudest applause if you discount the cheers when UAE touched 50 – by which time five wickets were down – and he didn’t let his admirers down with a beautiful cameo.

A decent show against India would have added greater credibility to UAE’s recent run, when it stretched Zimbabwe and Ireland before suffering heartbreak in both matches, but some of the shot selection in this match was iffy. Even apart from that, UAE would have known that its chances of pulling off an upset against the defending champion were slip, but the side would have hoped for a combative, competitive display.

However, only Shaiman Anwar, who conjured a special ton in the previous game against Ireland, took on India’s bowlers with any confidence and authority. Playing some spectacular strokes, he showcased his attacking instincts, a pull off Mohit Sharma that sped past square-leg clearly the pick of his six fours. He top-scored with an attractive 35 and added 31 for the last wicket with Guruge to push UAE past three figures, to give some consolation after the top order had found no answers to India’s bowling strength.

Andri Berenger succumbed to the pull in Yadav’s first over, clearly done for pace as the ball was on him long before the batsman and the bat had got into position. Amjad Ali, the other opener, fell in similar fashion.

Yadav, a little up-and-down coming into this game, needed this performance for confidence, as much as anything else. This spell will do his morale a world of good. He was pacy – at times going past the 147kph mark – and his short deliveries were on the money as he harried the batsmen and kept pushing them on to the back foot, physically and mentally.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni took him off after an excellent opening burst of 5-2-7-1, happy to see Yadav slip into the pace leader’s role in the injury-enforced absence of Mohammed Shami. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami’s replacement, wasn’t his usual niggardly self. The rust of not having played too much cricket of late showed as he sprayed the ball around a fair bit. There was a little bit of swing for him on a windy afternoon and he did produce the occasional well directed bouncer, but he has bowled far better and he will bowl far better in future, with game time under his belt.

Ashwin, though, was positively outstanding from the time he came on in the 11th over. He was always an excellent candidate to have a good outing at the WACA; coming into this match in the kind of rhythm that he has slipped into, he shut out all escape routes for the batsmen. His victims included the India-born duo of Krishna Chandran and Swapnil Patil, both of them at sea as they groped and poked uncertainly.

Throughout the World Cup, Ashwin has been in brilliant bowling form. He found some reward against South Africa in the last match, and more riches came on Saturday as UAE’s batsmen just couldn’t work him out. There was the classical offspinner, the straighter one, the near seam-up outswinger, as Ashwin slowed the ball up and held it in the air longer; he got bounce and turn too.

India was a little less than electric with the ball and in the field, but that was almost inevitable considering the team was barely stretched. Generally, though, India made sure it didn’t take the foot off the pedal, quite an accomplishment in a one-sided contest.