India all the way

Back in form ... Sachin Tendulkar's century paved the way for India's big win.-PTI

Sachin Tendulkar, with his sparkling 41st century, was in the vanguard of India's massive assault on the West Indies. G. Viswanath reports.

India outclassed West Indies in all departments of the game at the IPCL ground in Vadodara and notched a convincing 3-1 victory in the four-match Pepsi Cup ODI series. The highlight of the final match was `Man of the Match' and `Man of the Series' Sachin Tendulkar's 41st century — recorded off the last ball of the innings — and the sparkling batting by Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Rahul Dravid and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Their combined assault produced 341 runs, after which the Indian bowlers and fielders buried the West Indies under that formidable total.

West Indies rested Jerome Taylor, while Dwayne Bravo had to miss the match because of a sore left shoulder. In the circumstances, Brian Lara's decision to field first was most surprising, especially on a wicket that was expected to offer nothing more than normal bounce. Though Darren Powell managed to get extra bounce on the odd occasions in his opening spell, he did little to rattle India's opening pair of Sourav Ganguly and Robin Uthappa.

After the fall of Uthappa, who played Powell straight into the hands of Chris Gayle, West Indies did not get any cheap wickets. Ganguly struck some bold and handsome shots, spanking and pulling the bowlers effortlessly. He scored a pleasing half-century. Indian skipper Rahul Dravid, coming in at No. 3, was in control right from the first ball he faced. He added 101 runs for the second wicket with Ganguly.

India's captain Rahul Dravid with the Pepsi Cup.-PTI

Tendulkar's knock was a gem. He played each delivery on its merit. The little master worked the ball off his pads and ran the singles well to keep the scoreboard ticking. He and Dravid did not waste any opportunity in punishing the loose deliveries during their remarkable century stand. Thereafter Dhoni took charge, scoring a rollicking 40 with some big shots over the ropes.

When West Indies began its run chase, Ajit Agarkar once again tricked Chris Gayle, uprooting his off stump. Thereafter Yuvraj Singh took a smart catch at mid-wicket to send back the free-stroking Devon Smith and Suresh Raina — substituting for Tendulkar — ran out Lendl Simmons. The accidental run out of Lara at the non-striker's end after Irfan Pathan failed to take a return catch from Marlon Samuels marked the beginning of West Indies' slide.

A Stunner from Agarkar. Chris Gayle is bamboozled by this delivery which sends his off stump cartwheeling.-PTI

Lara later defended his decision to field first. "There's nothing wrong in it. It was the same decision as the one in Chennai. There was nothing very different about this pitch. We gave away too many runs and when it was our turn, lost too many wickets. India batted pretty well and things didn't work out for us in the first half. After India laid the foundation, Dhoni and Tendulkar could accelerate in the end. We started poorly and didn't put the ball in the right areas. Uthappa got India off to a flyer, scoring at 6-7 an over and this meant that there was no pressure on the guys who came after,'' said the West Indies skipper. Talking about his dismissal, Lara said: "These things happen. This is the first time I've been out like that. It's not the best way to leave the stage in India and in that sense it's unfortunate. But that's what sport is all about, glorious uncertainty. India dominated the match, but I wouldn't say it was a lack of fight from the West Indies. I thought the Indians just played much better. They deserve to win. Their performance was outstanding with the bat and in the field as well.''

Dravid said it was really good to win the series. "It was a must-win game for us. We were under a bit of pressure. We're going to play some pressure games that are must-win in the future and in the World Cup. To come out and put up a performance like this was a tribute to the whole squad.''

A disappointed Brian Lara returns to the pavilion after his freak dismissal.-AP

Dravid also said that he and the Indian team were not unduly worried about Tendulkar's form. "Maybe the others can stop worrying now so that we can have a bit of peace around. It's a great innings. Sachin showed why he is a great player, why he can play in different conditions, why he can adapt. Not many people in the world can do this. If you have players who can do this sort of thing, you're going to win a lot of games, no doubt about it. Sachin's innings was truly special and one of the best I've seen from him.''

* * * THE SCORES

Fourth ODI, Vadodara, January 31, 2007. India won by 160 runs.

India: A. R. Uthappa c Gayle b Powell 28; S. C. Ganguly st. Ramdin b Gayle 68; R. Dravid c Simmons b Samuels 78; S. R. Tendulkar (not out) 100; M. S. Dhoni (not out) 40; Extras (lb-14, w-9, nb-4) 27. Total (for three wkts in 50 overs) 341.

Fall of wkts: 1-47, 2-148, 3-266.

West Indies bowling: Powell 8-0-68-1; D. R. Smith 8-0-49-0; Emrit 9-0-65-0; Samuels 9-0-51-1; Gayle 8-0-34-1; Bradshaw 8-0-60-0.

West Indies: S. Chanderpaul c Harbhajan b Zaheer Khan 14; C. H. Gayle b Agarkar 6; D. S. Smith c Yuvraj b Pathan 24; M. N. Samuels c Pathan b Kumble 55; B. C. Lara (run out) 3; L. M. P. Simmons (run out) 4; D. Ramdin c Kumble b Harbhajan 40; D. R. Smith lbw Kumble 0; R. R. Emrit c Uthappa b Agarkar 13; I. D. R. Bradshaw (not out) 14; D. B. Powell c sub (S. K. Raina) b Yuvraj 1; Extras (lb-3, w-4) 7. Total (in 41.4 overs) 181.

Fall of wkts: 1-10, 2-32, 3-65, 4-72, 5-83, 6-148, 7-153, 8-155, 9-180.

India bowling: Agarkar 9-0-40-2; Zaheer Khan 6-1-21-1; Pathan 7-0-43-1; Harbhajan 8-1-30-1; Kumble 7-1-27-2; Yuvraj 4.4-0-17-1.