Dhawan ton sets up another win for India

Wednesday 25th February 2015 06:09 EST
India showed just why no one was writing them off even after they had spent two-and-a-half months in Australia without a win. They might not be the strongest team in the field, but on big days in limited-overs cricket they stay calmer than most. In a match to potentially decide who finishes top of their group, India sat back and saw South Africa work themselves up into a frenzy, get too funky and wilt under the weight of their own mistakes. This was India's first win over South Africa in a World Cup match.

Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli began slowly, made sure India had a solid platform before they began to accelerate. Dhawan went on to score 137, his first century in three months spent in Australia - his personal best and also the highest score against South Africa in a World Cup match. Kohli fell for 46, but Ajinkya Rahane scored 79 off 60 to help Dhawan along. India kept the defence simple too: bowl as few bad balls as possible, and once again under pressure South Africa imploded.

The execution of both the plans from India was spot on, but that had a lot to do with how simple the plans and preparation were. South Africa called in Gary Kirsten and Michael Hussey for consultation, they picked an extra bowler in Wayne Parnell, they used spinners in unconventional parts of the innings, but the anxiety showed the most in the fielding. Hashim Amla dropped Dhawan on 53, but anxiety was never more apparent in their trigger-happiness with unnecessary throws at the stumps and fumbles on the ground. It's hard to remember when South Africa last fielded so badly.

It started much better, though. AB de Villiers sent Rohit Sharma back for a duck with a direct hit from extra cover. India deserve all the credit for not panicking when Dale Steyn was bowling well along with Vernon Philander. It took them 14 overs to reach four an over for the first time, but South Africa looked the more anxious team.

Dhawan and Kohli attacked South Africa with proper attacking shots, and not scoops and reverses. They added 127 in 24.2 overs with Kohli taking the back seat to Dhawan's positive approach. It could have gone better for South Africa. Dhawan had looked in good touch in reaching 53 off 73, Kohli had just about got over a slow start, but South Africa were offered an opportunity to halt the assault. Dhawan cut Parnell to the right of Amla at point, a regulation catch by modern standards, Amla got both hands to it, but dropped it.

Dhawan and Kohli made 53 off the next seven overs. Parnell was their main target but even the return of Steyn didn't slow India down. Nor did the fall of Kohli - against the run of play and to a long hop from Tahir - slow them down. Rahane and Dhawan flowed smoothly, building up to a crescendo towards the Powerplay, which brought them 44 runs with no loss of wicket. Rahane and Dhawan added 125 in 16.3 overs.

In the final few overs, though, despite some more ordinary fielding, South Africa managed to pull India back a little. Only 80 came off the last 10, but India had a testing total on the board. South Africa don't have much batting after No. 6 but their top six are as good as any. There is a reason, though, why they have now failed to chase 270 eight times out of nine since they beat India in Nagpur in 2011. There is credit in how they have conceded 270 only nine times, but under pressure their batting invariably falters.

Chris Gayle's 215 flattens Zimbabwe

West Indies batsman Chris Gayle scored a double century against Zimbabwe and created a string of records- highest score in World Cup history, highest individual score for West Indies, the fastest double hundred in ODIs, most sixes in an ODI innings, and a lot more. For West Indies, it could not have come at a better time in ICC World Cup 2015.

Marlon Samuels' 8th ODI ton understandably became a footnote amidst Gayle's stunning 215 but he played an important part in the world-record partnership as West Indies powered to 372/2. As with most of Gayle's best knocks, the pacing of the innings was splendid. He got his fifty off 51 balls, his hundred off 105 balls but then exploded to score his next hundred off just 33 balls! However it was a far cry from how his and West Indies' innings started.

After opting to bat first, West Indies' opener Dwayne Smith was castled off just the second ball of the match by Tinashe Panyangara. Gayle could have been dismissed for a golden duck as well but Umpire Steve Davis turned down a close LBW call. What looked plumb to the naked eye was refuted by DRS, which supported the umpire, and Gayle survived, and later thrived.

Rebuilding was the need of the hour for West Indies and that's exactly what Gayle and Samuels did superbly. With rain clouds hovering over the Manuka Oval, West Indies made sedate but steady progress. Gayle was brisk but Samuels was a lot more watchful and got his fifty off 95 balls - the slowest in World Cup 2015. However Samuels' go-slow approach did not hurt West Indies too much and was neutered by Gayle's belligerence. It took Gayle 21 balls to move from 90 to 100 but the batting powerplay was in the offing and Gayle cut loose at the right time. 55 runs came in the batting powerplay between overs 35 and 40. Gayle scored 35 of them. That was the beginning of the carnage.

The staggering stand sent Zimbabwe on a leather hunt. The pressure of Gayle's onslaught showed on the Zimbabwe bowlers who had been very disciplined until the 35th over. Once he turned it on, Zimbabwe simply crumbled. They conceded 207 runs off the last 15 as the screws came off.

England crush Scotland by 119 runs

England completed a clinical 119-run victory over Scotland in their cricket World Cup Pool A match at Hagley Oval on Monday to record their first win in the tournament. After they were crushed in their opening games by co-hosts Australia and New Zealand, England posted 303 for eight after being asked to bat then dismissed Scotland for 184 from 47.2 overs on a day which began under dark clouds and concluded in bright sunshine.

Moeen Ali (128) produced a stream of delightful drives to reach his second one-day international century and shared a 172-run opening partnership with Ian Bell (54) to give England a grip on that match they were never to relinquish.

Although wickets fell regularly after their departures, captain Eoin Morgan at last found some form to strike 46 with four boundaries and two sixes and guide his team past the 300 mark.

Left-hander Ali was in prime form from the outset, driving the ball fluently through the off-side and punishing any short-pitched deliveries with some booming pulls.

He reached his century from 91 deliveries with his fourth six of the innings, lofting off-spinner Majid Haq high over mid-wicket.

After the interval, England's pace attack took control. Opener Kyle Coetzer took two boundaries off James Anderson's opening over and continued to drive and cut confidently to reach his half-century off 64 balls. Runs dried up at the other end against disciplined bowling and his dismissal for 71 with 11 boundaries was the beginning of the end. Ali took two for 47 from 10 overs, bowling in tandem with another occasional off-spinner Joe Root, as the wickets fell and the required run rate rose.

West Indies defeat Pakistan

A revitalized West Indies cashed in on a sensational Pakistan batting collapse to notch their first victory of the World Cup by 150 runs at Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Saturday. The Caribbean cricketers scored 310-6, with 115 runs coming in a swashbuckling final 10 overs involving Lendl Simmons, Andre Russell and Darren Sammy.

Pakistan in reply crumbled to their second straight defeat when they were all out for 160, failing to recover after the top four wickets fell in the first four overs for just one run, the worst start in one-day international history.

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