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Virender Sehwag hit a breezy 114 off 87 deliveries as India easily beat Bermuda in a crucial Group B match at the World Cup in Port of Spain on Monday.
Chasing a World Cup record total of 413, Bermuda were all out for 156 in 43.1 overs, handing India a 257-run victory, also a World Cup record.
India' margin of victory could have been larger had David Hemp not scored a stubborn 76 not out.India innings:
An optimum scenario for India, playing a key game at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad under overcast skies, high humidity and a grassy track, would have been to bowl first, look to blast Bermuda out for a sub-100 score, then knock up the runs in one heck of a hurry.
The best laid plans, though, can come undone at the toss: Irvine Romaine won the toss, and opted to bowl first - leaving India with the task of batting up a storm.
Despite pre-match speculation that Sachin Tendulkar would open with Sourav Ganguly, it was Robin Uthappa who walked out - and, after just four deliveries, walked back.
The Malachi Jones delivery was well wide of off; Uthappa, without getting into position, opted for a clumsy last minute steer to third on, got the thick outer edge, and the portly policeman Dwayne Leverock, all 200-plenty pounds of him, took off like a flea at first slip, and latched on to a stunner (3/4; India 3/1).
Virender Sewhag walked out, and joined Ganguly in a partnership that was a study in contrasts. After an initial flirt outside off that, luckily for the batsman, did not connect, Sehwag pulled his horns in - and paradoxically, began batting in an approximation of his best.
Noticeably, he took to staying still and playing late; the premeditated swipes outside off that has characterised his prolonged spell of misfortune were absent. He picked his shot and space only after being sure where the ball was landing, he played his shots as late as he possibly could, and promptly began timing and hitting them better - and better as his innings wore on.
He began with an on-the-rise punch through extra cover, and by the 6th over, was feeling good enough to play his favorite cut through point, twice, with laser precision. Jones, the bowler to suffer on that occasion, had more misery in the tenth when Sehwag drove through extra cover, flicked fine, cut through point for successive fours, then ended the over crashing another one through cover point.
Romaine sought to slow the pace down by bringing the experienced David Kemp on, and Sehwag promptly powered him over the straight boundary, waited a couple of deliveries, then smashed one inside out over the extra cover boundary.
His 50 came up in the 12th over, off 43 balls, in a score of 74/1, with 11 fours - and he showed every sign of wanting to go on and on.
Is this a return to form? Early days - the plus point, though, is that he finally has runs in the middle; the ball is coming off the bat nicely, and if confidence is the name of this particular game, he has done enough to get that confidence back.
At the other end, Sourav Ganguly looked, initially, to guage the wicket and batted well within himself. He was lucky to see an outer edge flash past the sole slip in the 4th over of the innings. From then on, he batted himself in, but remained static for long periods, seemingly unable either to pierce the field, or work the singles.
The Bermuda bowlers worked out that by bowling very full on off and middle, with a packed off field, they could keep him from breaking free - and the ploy worked, much to the batsman's increasingly visible frustration.
In the 13th over, Ganguly gave Kevin Hurdle a premeditated charge, but toed the attempted loft over the off side field high in the air. Borren, running back from mid off, covered ground well and got the ball in both hands - only to watch it bounce off.
After that mishap, Ganguly quietened down again, letting Sehwag do the bulk of the scoring and eschewing any attempt to force the pace; as late as the 18th over, he played out a maiden off Janeiro Tucker's gentle medium pace.
A rare moment of belligerence came in the 19th, when he came down the track to Leverock and lofted him over the long off fence; the same bowler was targeted again, in the 23rd over, with Ganguly this time coming down and swinging the ball high over the wide long on ropes and into the stands. Ganguly got to his 50 in the 25th over, off 80 deliveries with a four and two sixes.
At the halfway mark, India has, without really going berserk, gotten itself into assault mode by laying an impeccable platform. The run rate is in excess of 6 an over; the runs have been scored without overt risk, there is plenty of batting to come and the 350-plus score (Saurabh Wahi, one of our regulars and the man behind the graphical analysis of ODIs on our site, points out that if the Duckworth Lewis charts are on the money, India after 20 overs was on course for a 400-plus score)that India needs to kick start its run rate looks gettable. Keep in mind, too, that Bermuda still has to take one power play, which it eschewed at the height of the Sehwag blitz.
Overs 26 - 50
Bermuda skipper Romaine had delayed his last powerplay in the hope of getting some breathing space from the Sehwag blitz. With the innings past the halfway stage, and a late assault almost a certainty, Romaine had no option - the power play was taken in the 26th, and Sehwag greeted it by powering Hurdle high over the midwicket boundary.
With Ganguly too finding the range and, more importantly, timing on his forays down the track, the two capitalized to the tune of 57 runs in the critical five over period. The sole silver lining for the hapless Bermuda attack was the departure of Sehwag, with just two balls to go for the power plays to end.
Having smashed Hurdle straight back over his head, Sehwag looked to power one over midwicket, but was a touch too early into his shot (or did the ball hold off the deck a fraction?). He managed only to flare it off the edge of the bat, high in the air for Jones to back-peddle and hold at mid off (114/87 with 17 fours, three sixes, 44 dot balls, 22 singles, three twos; partnership of 202 runs at 7.04; India 205/2).
For the statistically minded, this was Sehwag's first century since his 108 versus Pakistan, in game one of the 2005 series at the Nehru Stadium in Kochy; it was his first 50 since October 2006, against the Aussies at Mohali; and it was his highest World Cup score by a distance, outclassing the 82 he scored against Australia in the 2003 final.
With Mahendra Dhoni, sent in to keep the accelerator pressed down, taking a while to suss out the slow nature of the pitch, exacerbated by bowlers who took the pace right off the ball, Ganguly had to play aggressor.
The southpaw had no pace on the ball to work with, especially on the drives - his only real option was to come down the track and use the bottom hand to loft over the infield, as he had done often and well during the third power play period.
The trouble with that though is it gets predictable. In the 35th over, he charged the off spinner Delyone Borden and lofted a four to long on; charged again, missed, and escaped being stumped down the leg side; waited for a ball and came charging again�
This time, Borden fired it wide of the batsman, Ganguly missed and was stumped by a mile (89/114; six fours, two sixes, 70 dot balls, 39 singles, seven twos; partnership 33 runs at 6.6; India 238/3).
Yuvraj Singh preceded Sachin Tendulkar to the crease, and Dhoni took over the responsibility of motoring along. An inside out shot to the extra cover fence, a bottom handed punch at a slower ball, back past the bowler, and an enormous waft over wide midwicket after a charge at Borden got things going, but an attempt to clear the straight boundary off the very next Borden delivery flared off the outer edge.
It went high, and straight, and seemingly out of reach of the fielders. Tucker sprinted frantically from long off, saw the ball dropping ahead of him, dived headlong - and incredibly, came up with the ball clutched in one hand. It was the kind of catch no one even attempts - an incredible effort (29/25; 11 dot balls, 13 singles, 1 two, two fours, one six; partnership 31 at 8.85; India 269/4).
Yuvraj Singh was very lucky, in the 42nd over, to be ruled not out by the third umpire off a stumping call off Lionel Cann. Yuvraj flashed a big grin - and began batting as if he were on the highlights package on tv.
Leverock was the first bowler to suffer - in the very next over, Yuvraj went low to the ground, set himself for the slog-sweep and swung high over midwicket; played the shot even better off the next ball to get India past 300, then came dancing down to smash straight past the bowler for a four. In the bowler's next over, he played the shot of the game - a flicked on drive, off his toes, that powered the ball flat, skimming the ground around 8 feet high, and over the wide long on ropes; to hit flat like that, through pure touch and timing and an absence of overt power, took immense skill.
On a day where the Bermuda fielders caught flies, David Hemp outdid his colleagues in the 47th. Sweeping at very deep midwicket, Hemp went airborne and snatched a fierce Yuvraj hit with one hand extended high overhead. He was an inch inside the line when he took off, however - and even a superhuman effort couldn't keep him inside the line with ball in hand.
That midwicket boundary was like a magnet - time and again, Yuvraj went down on his knee, to pace and spin, and kept slog-sweeping; the chairs took a fearsome pounding. Tucker in the 48th was blasted over midwicket, flick-driven over long on; then pulled through midwicket.. it was, put simply, merciless power-hitting by a batsman feeling his oats.
At the other end, Tendulkar went run a ball without any dramatics, intent on keeping Yuvraj on strike all he could - except an inside out over extra cover, off Cann, in the 44th. The same shot, hit better, cleared a desperately lunging long off - and the ropes - in the 46th. Tendulkar celebrated by going inside out again - this time running a long way around the line to loft over the wide long off fence.
Leverock bowled the 49th over. Tendulkar blasted the first ball, inside out, high over wide long on. A single later, Yuvraj went on his knees and went a mile over long on. The next ball was pulled wider, Yuvraj tried to clear the straight fence, and was caught on the line, again, Jones had to sprint to his left from a wider position, but made another lovely outfield catch look simple (83/46; 11 dot balls, 19 singles, 5 twos, three fours, seven sixes; partnership 122 runs at 12 runs per over; India 391/5).
Hemp came on for the final over, Tendulkar went on his knee, and swung over long on to bring up the 400 - and break Sri Lanka's record, against Kenya, for the highest score ever in World Cups. The shot also brought up his 54 - off 26 deliveries. Dravid weighed in with a last ball six - the 18th of the Indian innings - and India finished up on 413/5. (Tendulkar 54 not out off 27; 4 dot balls, 12 singles, 5 twos, 1 three, 2 fours, four sixes).
India here is chasing more than a win - the run rate matters, perhaps even more. Sri Lanka, in its game against Bermuda, had managed 321/6 in the allotted 50 overs. India has shaded the Lankans by 92 runs. Lanka bowled Bermuda out for 78 - that has to be India's target in the second half of the innings.
5 overs: 23/1; Sehwag 8/12; Ganguly 8/16
10 overs: 63/1; Sehwag 43/38; Ganguly 11/21
15 overs: 99/1; Sehwag 69/51; Ganguly 18/40
20 overs: 122/1; Sehwag 78/60; Ganguly 32/61
25 overs: 153/1; Sehwag 90/71; Ganguly 51/80.
30 overs: 210/2; Ganguly 76/97; Dhoni 0/0
35 overs: 238/3; Dhoni 7/11; Yuvraj 0/1
40 overs: 277/4; Yuvraj 11/13; Tendulkar 4/4
45 overs: 329/4; Yuvraj 46/32; Tendulkar 17/15.
The problem with Ajit Agarkar is deception. Not the batsmen, who most times are fine - the really deceptive part of his bowling is his figures.
4-0-12-0 - very good, you would say, except that of the 24 deliveries he sent down, the batsmen didn't have to play more than six, eight tops; the rest were well wide of target, and even the Bermuda batsmen had enough sense to let Dhoni do the heavy lifting.
The problem with that kind of bowling at the top of the innings is two-fold: one, it dilutes the pressure Zaheer Khan creates at one end; two, the good teams will be more unforgiving, and if you release pressure against them at one end, they will attack at the other too. The other, hidden problem is that Munaf Patel has to then come in, and undo the damage rather than attacking from the get-go.
By contrast, Zaheer Khan was on the money from his first ball. In fact, his first over indicated just how seasoned a bowler he has become. To the right handed Oliver Pitcher, Zaheer bowled a stream of outswingers, that landed off and darted away; he then landed one just a bit fuller on off, only this one he brought back. Bingo: batsman playing for it to leave him, ball thuds onto pads off the inner edge and then onto the stumps (0/6; 0/1).
The dismissal of the southpaw Stephen Outerbridge was a mirror image: deliveries outside off going away for the set up, one of which was pulled for four, then the fuller length, on off, jagging back sharply to find the batsman pushing the wrong line; the ball sneaks through the gap and onto the stumps (9/16; 18/2).
Javagal Srinath, Rahul Dravid's statemate and friend (and ICC match referee for the World Cup) made the point recently: Rahul, he said, is not a bowler's captain. The field he set here is just one more indication why: two slips, the rest spread out in the predictable, textbook arc.
India has 413 on the board. By no stretch of the imagination could you see Bermuda even getting close. Put a slip more, a gully even, put a man under the batsman's eye at a very short cover - ring the batsman around, the bowlers automatically get charged, they bowl more attacking lines. If you won't do it when 'defending' 413 against a minor team, when will you, ever?
Patel kept beating the bat outside off, with deliveries on off that jumped off length around off and seamed late; deliveries a touch too good for the batsmen. He then bent one back in at Borden, got him on the pad, and was lucky umpire Aleem Dar ruled in his favor to a ball that would have missed for height (Borden 13/38; partnership 29 at 3.9; Bermuda 47/3).
Zaheer ended a first spell of 7-1-27-2; Agarkar came back, and to his very first ball, was driven over the extra cover boundary, off the front foot, by Hemp. One over was all it took; Agarkar was rushed out of the attack and Anil Kumble brought on.
It was business as usual: quick full flipper, on off and middle, Romaine not really forward, wrapped on the pad, bye bye (0/10; 57/4). In his next over, Kumble bowled - gasp - an inswinging yorker; Janeiro Tucker, unused to a spinner bowling at a speed and in a fashion he rarely faces from his own pacemen, was yorked middle stump as he played all over, and around, it (0/5; 62/5).
It was pretty much a one man show: Hemp, the only Bermuda batsman with street cred thanks to his stint in English county and his current assignment as Glamorgan's captain, batted with some skill against both Kumble and Munaf, feeling his oats to the point where in the 24th over, he first square drove Munaf off the back foot, then reached forward to thump him through the covers.
At the halfway point, the question that remains, with Bermuda 88/5, is how much longer Kemp can keep up his solo stand on the burning deck - and just when India will manage to get the opposition out, and what the final run rate will be.
Overs 26 - 50
In the second half, the game meandered along for a while, with India, surprisingly, spreading its field out barring a slip or, occasionally, two.
Agarkar, who got a third go at the bowling crease, was whipped over midwicket for six, off his pads, by Minors, but in the 30th over, finally had a measure of revenge when Minors attempted to work a full length delivery on the on, got the leading edge, and was held by Dinesh Karthik at mid off (21/36; 106/7).
Lionel Cann lasted just one ball. The next, he pulled; Uthappa ran in, dived, and came up with the ball. It was a brilliant take; the batsman stood his ground, reckoning maybe it had touched down; the umpires conferred and gave it out. On the replay, it all depended on the angle - from some, it looked clean, like the fielder had managed to get a couple of fingers between ball and ground; from others, not. \
In the event, the batsman had to go (0/2; 106/7).
Kevin Hurdle was the next to go. Agarkar bowled one straight and full, Hurdle expected the ball to do something and played inside the line, the ball went through straight, and hit off stump (0/4; 110/8).
With India attempting to get Bermuda out under or around 120, Hemp pulled at Agarkar; the miscue flew high, Ganguly at deep midwicket seemed to have it covered, then inexplicably pulled out of attempting the catch and fielded on the bounce. The sky was overcast, the best explanation could be that the fielder lost the ball in the air.
Curiously, Dravid elected to do away with even the one slip, for Hemp. Bermuda was 120/8 after that let off - the Indian captain probably assumed that Hemp might still make a try for the target.
In the event, Anil Kumble found the outside edge, but there was no one at slip to hold what would have been a simple one, and it ran down for four. When Dwayne Leverock came on strike, back came the slip, and a silly point to boot.
Cricket 101: defend the runs against good batsmen, put slips in place for the tailenders. Doesn't matter if the target is so far out of reach, you could put all your fielders in the slips, or in the pavilion for that matter - the textbook says you have to give good batsmen respect, so we'll respect the heck out of them.
If there is a lesson in there somewhere, it is that the captain, and the team, still hasn't gotten to where they finish games off with ruthless efficiency - and this pusillanimity could cost them against the bigger teams.
The observer will likely blame the bowlers for not finishing the game off (Ranjit Fernando, the on-air expert at the time, said exactly that). Bowlers, though, need support - by way of field settings, by way of catches taken, to do their job; absent that support, their utility is reduced. And Dravid with his field placing has not been forthcoming with that support.
From a more immediate point of view, the Indians apparently were not too concerned about the net run rate - an unconcern that could cost them dear when the group games end and calculators are whipped out.
Having piled up a mountain of runs, the need was to attack, flat out, and bundle Bermuda out. Instead, once the top order had been taken out, there was drift in the field. The fielders ambled around, bowlers came, did their shtick and went away, the field was spread so wide you thought they were defending 114, not 414; the second half of the batting was allowed to hang around endlessly after the first five had been bundled out inside 19 overs.
It was all quite bizarre, really.
Sachin Tendulkar ended the misery when, coming on in the 42nd over, he pitched one invitingly on off and turned it away. Leverock bit; he cut at a ball too close for the shot, and managed only to edge behind (9/31; 154/9; partnership 44 runs at 4.32). An over later, Kumble was brought on and with his first ball, nailed last man Malachi Jones on his pad in front of off with, surprise surprise, a quick, full flipper (1/8; Bermuda all out 156; Kemp unbeaten on 76/105).
India sealed the win by 257 runs - another world cup record, for the highest margin of victory; in the process, it raised its run rate to 2.57. You were left with the feeling though that had there been a concerted effort, the run rate could have been a few ticks higher.
That might sound churlish, unappreciative, on a record-breaking day - but then, this game wasn't about winning, per se; it was more about getting into a good position to move into the Super Eights. We will know, after the Lanka game, if today's effort is good enough.
5 overs: 11/1 (Delyone Borden 6/12; Stephen Outerbridge 4/12)
10 overs: 34/2 (Borden 11/24; David Hemp 9/15)
15 overs: 54/3 (Hemp 25/28; Irvine Romaine 0/7)
20 overs: 64/5 (Hemp 29/39; Dean Minors 1/7)
25 overs: 87/5 (Hemp 44/55; Minors 9/21)
30 overs: 106/7 (Hemp 49/66; Kevin Hurdle 0/2)
35 overs: 131/8 (Hemp 62/83; Dwayne Leverock 6/11)
40 overs: 147/8 (Hemp 69/97; Leverock 9/27).The Cup: Complete Coverage
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