Winning ugly, the Indian way

Stuttering tournament favourites register less-than-impressive victory over the Netherlands

Winning ugly, the Indian way

A second routine run chase against another ‘lesser’ team was transformed into a tense affair by a reckless approach that did the most powerful batting line-up of the competition very little credit.

India’s bowling had struggled to impose itself on the Netherlands on an admittedly sluggish, spirit-breaking Feroze Shah Kotla pitch on Wednesday, the Dutch improving vastly on previous efforts of 115 and 120 to make a combative 189.

Through Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, India began as if they had an early evening dinner date, but not even the fall of the two openers, both offering gifts to left-arm spinner Pieter Seelaar playing one stroke too many, brought about a change in attitude.

India lost four for 30 in 43 deliveries to slump to 99 for four -- against Ireland three nights back, they were 100 for four -- and while again, they were never in any danger of losing the game, they could have done without triggering artificial excitement.

As he had done on Sunday, Yuvraj Singh held the chase together with another sensible hand, conjuring a third straight half-century. By reaching 191 for five, India completed a second consecutive five-wicket win, with 81 deliveries to spare. The big question is what if, against a stronger and more experienced attack, India have to chase a more sizeable target?

It might be tempting to wish away the mini-collapse as just one of those things, especially considering the oppositions have been Ireland and the Netherlands respectively and India occasionally tend to play to the level of their opponents, but the ‘what if’ query will gather momentum now that a knockout berth is all but assured.

Until that hiccup, Sehwag and Tendulkar put on an absolute exhibition. Matching each other stroke for stroke, Sehwag took on all comers and Tendulkar singled Ryan ten Doeschate out for special treatment. Boundaries flowed in torrents as a noisy audience was treated to spectacular entertainment. Along the way, Tendulkar became the first to reach 2,000 World Cup runs.

Seelaar benefited from India’s gung-ho approach, accounting for the openers as well as Yusuf Pathan, promoted to number three, with a delivery that stopped on the batsman. The 23-year-old did little that justified those illustrious scalps, but he sure wasn’t complaining!

India weren’t complaining either as the Dutch batsmen threw their hands away when, with a little more application, they could easily have posted a more competitive total Once again, it was left to Zaheer Khan to spare India the blushes, while Piyush Chawla – when will he start repaying the faith? – had another ordinary afternoon after Peter Borren opted to bat first.

Like in the last game, Mahendra Singh Dhoni brought his spinners on very early. Pathan appeared in the fourth over and by the seventh, it was off-spin at both ends as Harbhajan Singh too was pressed into action. Neither made any impression on the stodgy Eric Szwarczynski and Wesley Barresi, whose 56-run (92b) stand was the third time in four matches India have allowed an opening association of more than fifty.

Chawla finally delivered a googly on target to breach Szwarczynski’s defences, and the golden arm of Yuvraj accounted for Barresi. Tom Cooper led a charmed life, put down twice and escaping being run out, while ten Doeschate was tied up in knots by the lack of pace off the pitch and holed out to long-off as he played his first shot in anger.

Having operated only his spinners between overs seven and 29, Dhoni turned to Ashish Nehra – coming in for Munaf Patel – and Zaheer. Both struck paydirt as the Dutch subsided to 127 for seven despite India not being on top of their game, but it is what followed that should worry Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten.

Harbhajan had another wicketless game, Chawla was taken apart by Borren and the batting Power Play yielded 42 runs. Suddenly, the Dutch showed flair and aggression through their captain and medium-pacer Mudassar Bukhari, who amassed 38 in just 23 deliveries for the ninth wicket to lend some meat to their total, as India’s bowling again stood exposed.

Zaheer, outstanding as ever, wrapped things up, but can India afford to depend so much on one bowler? And can their batsmen continue to bestow gifts on the opposition?

Scoreboard
NETHERLANDS
Szwarczynski b Chawla    28
(42b, 4x4)
Barresi lbw Yuvraj    26
(58b, 2x4)
Cooper c Dhoni b Nehra    29
(47b, 2x4)
Ten Doeschate c Zaheer b Yuvraj    11
(28b, 1x4)
Kervezee c Harbhajan b Chawla    11
(23b, 1x4)
Zuiderent lbw Zaheer    0
(6b)
de Grooth (run out)    5
(11b)
Borren c Nehra b Zaheer    38
(36b, 3x4, 2x6)
Kruger (run out)    8
(12b, 1x4)
Bukhari b Zaheer    21
(18b, 1x4, 2x6)
Seelaar (not out)    0
(0b)
Extras (B-6, LB-3, W-2, NB-1)    12
Total (all out, 46.4 overs)    189
Fall of wickets: 1-56 (Szwarczynski), 2-64 (Barresi), 3-99 (ten Doeschate), 4-100 (Cooper), 5-101 (Zuiderent), 6-108 (de Grooth), 7-127 (Kervezee), 8-151 (Kruger), 9-189 (Borren).
Bowling: Zaheer 6.4-0-20-3, Nehra 5-1-22-1, Pathan 6-1-17-0, Harbhajan 10-1-31-0 (w-2), Chawla 10-0-47-2 (nb-1), Yuvraj 9-1-43-2.
Runs during: Power Play 1: 1-10 overs: 38/0; Power Play 2: 11-15 overs: 18/0; Power Play 3 (batting): 42.1-47 overs: 42/2.
INDIA
Sehwag c Kervezee b Seelaar    39
(26b, 5x4, 2x6)
Tendulkar c Kruger b Seelaar    27
(22b, 6x4)
Pathan c & b Seelaar    11
(10b, 1x4, 1x6)
Gambhir b Bukhari    28
(28b, 3x4)
Kohli b Borren    12
(20b, 2x4)
Yuvraj (not out)    51
(73b, 7x4)
Dhoni (not out)    19
(40b, 2x4)
Extras (W-4)    4
Total (for 5 wkts, 36.3 overs)    191
Fall of wickets: 1-69 (Sehwag), 2-80 (Tendulkar), 3-82 (Pathan), 4-99 (Kohli), 5-139 (Gambhir).
Bowling: Bukhari 6-1-33-1 (w-2), ten Doeschate 7-0-38-0 (w-2), Seelaar 10-1-53-3, Borren 8-0-33-1, Cooper 2-0-11-0, Kruger 3.3-0-23-0.
Runs during: Power Play 1: 1-10 overs: 82/3; Power Play 2: 11-15 overs: 17/1; Power Play 3 (batting): 36.1-40 overs: 5/0.

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