Bollywood numbers were a recurrent chorus and vocal chords found fresh life through unbridled enthusiasm as a packed Old Trafford heaved with a vast majority of Indian fans. There was much to cheer for the boisterous audience while Virat Kohli’s men extended their unbeaten run in this World Cup.
After scoring 268 for seven against the West Indies here on Thursday, India bowled out the opposition for 143 in 34.2 overs and registered a 125-run victory. India's fifth triumph pushed its tally to 11 and a better net run-rate (+1.463) helped it go past New Zealand to the second slot and inch closer to a semifinal berth. The West Indies, though, found its tenuous dreams for a last-four finish, dissipate.
A Chris Gayle special was needed if the West Indies had to harbour hopes of a successful chase but the opener failed. The southpaw nearly chopped Mohammed Shami onto his stumps and when the spearhead dug it short, Gayle’s half-swat found Kedar Jadhav. Worse was to follow when Shai Hope failed to thwart Shami’s excess inward movement.
The West Indies found respite through a 55-run partnership that Sunil Ambris and Nicholas Pooran scripted for the third wicket. But Hardik Pandya dismissed Ambris and Pooran followed suit as he chanced his arms against spinner Kuldeep Yadav. The men from the Caribbean Islands were in trouble at 80 for four in the 21st over while illustrious predecessors like Clive Lloyd in the member’s stand and Michael Holding and Curtly Ambrose from the commentary boxes, watched with a wistful look.
The spirited comeback never happened as captain Jason Holder perished to Yuzvendra Chahal and Jasprit Bumrah after softening up Carlos Brathwaite with a series of yorkers, drew the edge and an air-borne M.S. Dhoni plucked a right-handed catch. Off the next ball, Bumrah scalped Fabian Allen and though a hat-trick proved elusive, the fight had ebbed away from the West Indies.
Earlier, like the trams that slither through Manchester, India steadily progressed after Kohli elected to bat. The pitch was slow and the fast bowlers kept it tight except when they sprayed bouncers. But India found its core runs from Kohli (72), Dhoni (56 n.o.), K.L. Rahul (48) and Pandya (46).
Openers Rahul and Rohit Sharma were watchful against Sheldon Cottrell and Kemar Roach. The last named got one to nip back and there was ambiguity over whether the Mumbaikar had edged to wicket-keeper Hope but Holder sought a review and to Rohit’s consternation, the plea was validated.
Rahul then buckled down and stitched a 69-run second-wicket partnership with Kohli. The alliance settled after a few scares due to uppish flicks and haphazard running. There was bonhomie too. Gayle effected a diving save and Kohli applauded his former Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mate.
Just as Rahul neared his fifty, he played all over a Holder delivery and Vijay Shankar, after essaying a few drives, failed to counter Roach’s late moment. The middle-order wobbled as Jadhav fell as another West Indian review for a caught-behind was upheld. Meanwhile, Kohli etched his fourth consecutive 50 and added 40 for the fifth wicket with Dhoni.
The former skipper enjoyed a reprieve on eight as Hope missed a regulation stumping off Allen. At the other end, panache was evident in a Kohli on-drive off his counterpart Holder, but immediately the premier willow-wielder miscued a swivel pull. A touch tentative at 180 for five in 38.2 overs, India needed a second-wind and it breezed in through a 70-run sixth-wicket partnership between Dhoni and Pandya. The duo ran hard and smote a few.
Holder employed Brathwaite following a thumb injury that briefly benched Thomas and the Indians prospered. The last 10 overs cumulatively offered 82 and the final five bequeathed 49. Pandya and Shami fell in succession but Dhoni stood tall in the last over bowled by Oshane Thomas. A scoring sequence of 6, 0, 0, 4, 0, 6 helped India find a much-needed surge that persisted through a sunny afternoon.
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