Bowlers pack off Windies for 143, team romps to 5th win, one short of S/F spot
One more win to a confirmed semi-final seat. The only unbeaten team in the World Cup. Top on the rankings. Possibly, a top spot in the knockout round too. Bowlers spewing brilliance and wickets. Batsmen finding their way out of sticky pitches. Victories despite being in a spot a couple of times. India is, indeed, in a good space.
Having packed off the West Indies cheaply for 143 at Old Trafford and well within 35 overs, Man of the Match with 72 runs to his credit, Virat Kohli also managed a big boost for the net run rate just in case his team gets caught in placement issues in the knockouts.
As the West Indies prepare to exit England to thrash out their cricket politics, their island rivalries and their decision on what to do with Chris Gayle who has laid claim to playing one last series against India and also a Test series if you please (he last played a Test in 2014), India roll on from Manchester into Birmingham where they meet beleaguered hosts England who are into their very own battle of survival, having lost back to back matches to Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
Living for the day on Thursday though, a bright and sunny one at that, Indian batters came under pressure of the measured and impactful bowling by the West Indians after skipper Kohli won the toss and elected to bat.
However, a last-over burst by an otherwise slow M S Dhoni (56*), who scored 16 runs in three balls, rejected single run possibilities thrice by sending back Kuldeep Yadav into his crease and then changing his bat to hit a last-ball six, gave the Indians a competitive total (268) and also washed away some of the inertia related criticism the master finisher has been under after the match against Afghanistan.
Once the match was done and dusted, Kohli stood up for Dhoni’s performance: “…anybody can have off-days. When he has off-days, everybody starts talking. We back him and the best thing is when you need extra 15-20 runs in the end, he does that well. He knows how to bat with the tail. His experience, eight out of 10 times, works for us. We have quite a few players who play instinctive cricket. He’s one guy who sends out a message that what the par score is on a pitch. If he says 265 is a good score on a pitch, we don’t aim for 300 and end up scoring 230. He’s a legend for us, and hopefully he’ll continue,” he added.
But it was more about the Indian bowlers having a sunshine day than the sweat that India’s batting unit broke into to get the score to 268. First came Shami who broke the West Indies intent by pocketing 2 wickets early with searing pace and accuracy, taking down legendary pinch hitter Chris Gayle to a catch on mid-on on a short one for just six and then eliminating Hope for a single figure 5. Shami, in for injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar, has bowled with ferocity and brilliance to seal his spot in the team with four wickets against Afghanistan, including a hattrick, and four valuable ones against West Indies. Strange though that he has missed the Man of the Match on both occasions.
Bumrah, meanwhile, has been on regulation bowling, taking wickets, at least two in every match to break any partnerships that may be building up. He cleaned out danger man Brathwaite to an astonishingly long stretch catch by Dhoni and followed it up in the next ball trapping Allen plumb for a duck, energising Kohli into egging on the crowd to cheer for a possible hattrick.
Spinners Kuldeep and Chahal, meanwhile, went about their business as assigned containing and damaging whatever was left of the West Indies spirit which had gone up after the first innings but cracked early after the ouster of Gayle.
Earlier in the innings, disciplined, impactful bowling by the West Indians shoved aside the chant around the controversial TV dismissal of Rohit Sharma, and more importantly, kept the famed Indian batting brigade struggling and sweating to somehow up the score to a competitive total. In the end, India put up 268 on board, giving a lot of work to their spinners to do, especially with the prospect of Chris Gayle being the mammoth run getter in his last World Cup, not having fired so far.
But for KL Rahul’s 48, which he admitted he has failed to convert into bigger scores needed by an opener, Kohli’s 72 and an unbeaten MS Dhoni who scored his half century in the last over (56 off 61 balls), not to mention Pandya’s aggressive 48, it was all quiet for the blade runners. Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav’s field presences have been short and unsweet.
Returning to West Indies, Kemar Roach who clocked in 3/36, and skipper Jason Holder who sported 2/33 with 46 dot balls, kept the Indian crowd quiet for most part of the 50 overs and defiantly compelled score predictors to keep pushing it down from 300 plus to 280 to 265 to even 250 plus at one time. With the lack of fireworks in the middle, the self-proclaimed Universe Boss raised some cheers by diving to field a ball or two, a trait he is not known for at all.
It all started unravelling for India when Sharma was given out to a referral by West Indies. A not-out decision by the on-field umpire was controversially overturned to send back Sharma in disbelief, shaking his head in frustration long after the call. That put brakes on India’s run machine early in the innings. The TV umpire erred on the wrong side of caution and when he should have gone with the original decision in the light of inconclusive evidence, decided to give Sharma out to an edge which looked more from the pad than the bat.
The call came after a cautious start saw India’s first boundary only in the 28th ball of the innings, hit hard by Sharma when India were 14 without loss. He soon followed it up in the next over with a resounding six with his typical pull shot. This was off Kemar Roach. Finally, 12 runs came off the over, with Rahul joining in the acceleration show with a good-looking straight drive.
Just then Sharma allowed the ball to pass through his bat and pad into the keeper’s hand. The West Indies referred and he was given out despite the spike appearing to be pad, at 29.
Meanwhile, Kohli scampered to his 50 almost stealthily. This was Kohli’s fourth consecutive World Cup 50 and overall 94th. Kohli has a knack of getting runs almost un-noticed though a century has so far evaded him in the tournament. Kohli took 55 balls and six fours to get to this milestone.
He took just three deliveries at start before he smashed Oshane Thomas through the covers with a four for the textbooks before Rahul started taking some uppish chances to build on the scoreboard on a lovely summer morning with not a speck of cloud in the sparkling blue skies over Old Trafford and the stands complementing the blue above them.
The 50 partnership came up through a four, past point by Rahul who picked on Allen with impunity. This was the second successive 50 plus partnership for them after Afghanistan.
Then Kohli departed without premise, very surprisingly for himself and the crowd when he gave an easy and unexpected catch to Darren Bravo at mid-wicket. At 72 he was on to his maiden century in the Cup but a two minded shot to a lower delivery by Holder had him walking in self-disgust, long later to mull his move with a shaking head and anger at going the way he did.
The much-required partnerships that Kohli has often talked about showed up only between himself and Rahul but giving them longevity beyond the 60s did not happen, giving Kohli a lot to do in the middle as his boys walked at regular intervals, including Shankar whose consolidating performance against Pakistan has already started failing. Jadav came and went to another referral only with 7 off 10 balls and the Indian score line, which was estimated in the 300s suddenly started looking anaemic at 140/4 when Dhoni came in.
India’s 100 came up in 81 balls and celebrated by a boundary by the skipper when he pulled Cottrell all the way down to fine leg, following it up with another cover drive. Kohli’s orange collar was up and signalling that time was in for upping the pace of runs. The 200 came up in the 42nd over, with just eight overs remaining for Pandya and Dhoni to bring in the harvest.
Friday, 28 June 2019 | PNS | Old Trafford (Manchester)
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