India beat the West Indies by 80 runs in the final first round match of the ICC World Cup 2011 at Chennai. Chasing 269 for a win, the Indians bowled them out for 188 in 43 overs. With this win, they have assured second position in Group B, behind South Africa and ahead of England and West Indies.
Earlier in the day, India won the toss and opted to bat first. The pitch was different from all games played here so far as it promised more bounce and carry, though spin was always going to be a factor. Ravichandran Ashwin was finally included in the side and so was Suresh Raina in place of Virender Sehwag and Ashish Nehra.
Sehwag hadn’t recovered from a blow on his knee and missed out. In his place Gautam Gambhir opened the innings with Sachin Tendulkar, but their partnership didn’t last long. Tendulkar, gunning for his 100th international hundred, was squared up by Ravi Rampaul and he walked off despite the umpire not detecting the inside edge.
Virat Kohli walked in at number three and took the score to 51 before Gambhir top edged one to third man, again off Rampaul. The medium pacer playing only his first World Cup game picked out the top order when he bowled Kohli in the 33rd over. But by then the Delhi batsman had put on 122 runs for the third wicket with Yuvraj Singh. Kohli was out for 59 runs off 76 balls, never having gotten off second gear. Yuvraj meanwhile was at his belligerent best and after grinding out three fifties previously in the tournament, this time raced to his maiden World Cup century. He finished with 113 off 123 balls, including ten fours and two sixes.
At the other end, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina had failed to get going, and when Yuvraj was sixth out on the last ball of the 45th over, India were once again staring at a lower-order collapse. Rampaul came back into the attack to realize these fears and took a career best five for 51. His previous best of four for 37 had also come against India in June 2009. He bowled Yusuf Pathan for 11 and then Zaheer Khan for five.
Andre Russell on the other end removed Harbhajan Singh and Munaf Patel as the hosts were bowled out for 268 runs in 49.1 overs. Their last six wickets had fallen for 50 runs in 7.3 overs and India’s batting powerplay was again hurtful costing them four wickets for 28 runs in just 4.1 overs.
The loud debate over Ashwin’s inclusion ended when he opened the bowling for the West Indies innings. They missed the explosiveness of Chris Gayle who didn’t play because of a side strain. Spin was introduced soon enough from the other end as well. Harbhajan Singh and Ashwin didn’t allow Devon Smith and Kirk Edwards to gain momentum. The latter was sent back LBW to Ashwin after an umpire referral in the seventh over and out came Darren Bravo. He put together 57 runs with Smith for the second wicket before holing out to Harbhajan off Raina. Even so, with Ramnaresh Sarwan, Smith rebuilt the innings and at the end of the 30th over, with the scoreboard reading 154 for two, West Indies seemed to be slowly walking away with the game.
The turning point came with Zaheer Khan’s re-introduction into the attack and he bowled Smith for 81 off 97 balls. After that the innings just collapsed under immense pressure from the Indian bowlers and fielders, for none of the remaining batsmen reached double digits. Within 13 overs, the batting was blown away to 188 all out, and the last eight wickets fell for a mere 34 runs. Zaheer finished with three wickets, while Ashwin and Yuvraj finished with two wickets apiece.
Chetan Narula in Chennai
ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP QUARTER-FINAL LINE-UP
23rd March: Pakistan v West Indies, Dhaka
24th March: Australia v India, Ahmedabad
25th March: New Zealand v South Africa, Dhaka
26th March: Sri Lanka v England, Colombo
© Cricket World 2011
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