Odisha Sun Times Sports Bureau
Auckland, March 14:
A thumping century by Brendon Taylor and some early hiccups notwithstanding, India maintained their all-win record in the league matches of the ICC World Cup 2015, beating Zimbabwe by six wickets at the Eden Park ground here today.
Four down for just 92 at one stage chasing Zimbabwe’s impressive score of 287 all out (48.5 overs), India rode on Man of the Match Suresh Raina’s domineering 110 (104 balls, 9 fours, 4 sixes) and Dhoni’s typically aggressive 85 (76 balls, 8 fours and two sixes) to post their sixth consecutive victory in the tournament.
Typically, the Indian captain sealed the match with a stupendous six off the hapless Panyangara, just as he had done in the finals of the last edition of the marquee event in Mumbai four years ago.
“I am glad the hard work came off. I thought the wicket was really good, and if ever I got the ball I can go after, then I would go after it. Once MS came, it certainly helped as well. When the team needed me the most, I just wanted to be positive and smart, especially in the Powerplays. Glad we were able to do it really well in the end. MS and I have played a lot of matches together, and have finished a lot of matches together. MS told me that I just can’t smash every ball, but he did back my strengths on the field,” Raina said after receiving the Man of the Match award.
The win is certainly to keep the morale of the team high ahead of the crucial quarter final clash against Bangladesh at the iconic MCG on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, guided by a brilliant century from Brendan Taylor, Zimbabwe managed to put up a challenging total of 287 before being bowled out in 48.5 overs by India in their last World Cup Pool B match at the Eden Park here on Saturday.
The afternoon totally belonged to the Zimbabwe skipper, who playing his final One-Day International (ODI), smashed a magnificent 110-ball 138 runs on the small ground which included 15 boundaries and five sixes.
In the process, Taylor also became the first Zimbabwean to score back-to-back hundreds in a World Cup and is also the first Zimbabwean to score 400 runs in a World Cup, beating the previous best of 367 by Neil Johnson in 1999. He now also has the most number of centuries (8) by a Zimbabwean, overtaking Alastair Campbell (7).
Put in to bat, Zimbabwe were put on the back-foot with some brilliant bowling by India pacers Mohammed Shami (3/48) and Umesh Yadav (3/43). By the end of the 11th over, Zimbabwe were tottering at 33/3 with all three India pacers picking up a wicket each.
But thereon, Taylor and Sean Williams (50) stuck it out in the middle to strike a significant 93-run fourth-wicket stand to steady Zimbabwe’s ship. Williams went on to score his 21st ODI half-century before giving an easy catch to offie Ravichandran Ashwin (1/75) off his own bowling.
But Taylor did not allow the defending champions to exploit the situation and started going after the spinners. Because of Taylor, Ashwin, who has been spectacular in this tournament, went for his most expensive ODI figures with 10-0-75-1.
The wicketkeeper-batsman did not reprieve Ravindra Jadeja (0/71) either as he smashed 25 runs in the 41st over off the left-armer to ruin his bowling figures too.
A 109-run fifth-wicket partnership between Taylor and Craig Ervine (27), which resurrected the Zimbabwean innings, finally came to an end when Taylor was caught at mid-on off the bowling of Mohit Sharma (3/48).
The crowd rose one last time to acknowledge Taylor’s contribution as Indian players went up to him to congratulate him for a fantastic career.
For India, Taylor and company did not let the spinners settle down. But the pacers came good as Shami, Mohit and Yadav all picked up three wickets each. More importantly, they came back strongly to bowl out Zimbabwe for 287 in what was earlier easily looking like a 300-par total.
All-rounder Sikandar Raza (28) hit a few lusty blows towards the end but the lower-order simply lacked the firepower to counter the Indian pace attack, succumbing in 48.5 overs. (IANS)