Six out of six for Team India

Brendan Taylor leaves the field even as the crowd gives him a standing ovation. Taylor, who played his last innings for Zimbabwe, came up with a sparkling hundred.-AP

India sank to 92 for four during the run chase before the innings was resuscitated by the sterling combination of Dhoni and Suresh Raina. It was an emotional day, though, for Taylor. He fully exploited Eden Park’s short straight boundaries, driving the fast bowlers towards the sight-screen and lofting the spinners over it. By Shreedutta Chidananda.

In his last game as an international cricketer, Brendan Taylor played arguably the greatest innings of his one-day career. Zimbabwe’s Group B clash with India in Auckland was Taylor’s last outing for his nation before heading off to Nottinghamshire, where he has signed a three-year deal as a Kolpak player. He made a 110-ball 138 — the first century against India in the World Cup — as Zimbabwe posted a target of 288, also the highest M.S. Dhoni's men have faced.

India sank to 92 for four during the run chase before the innings was resuscitated by the sterling combination of Dhoni and Suresh Raina. It was an emotional day, though, for Taylor. He paced his innings well, beginning slowly and then amassing 70 runs from his last 27 balls. He fully exploited Eden Park’s short straight boundaries, driving the fast bowlers towards the sight-screen and lofting the spinners over it.

Taylor and Sean Williams are easily the best players of spin in the Zimbabwe team. They showed no fear in stepping out and dominated R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who finished with the miserable combined figures of 146 in 20 overs. Williams was especially severe on Ashwin, clobbering the off-spinner over the mid-wicket boundary three times. Taylor swept and reverse-swept delightfully, frustrating the two spinners no end.

Taylor became the first Zimbabwean to score back-to-back hundreds in World Cup matches and score more than 400 runs in a single edition. “If you're going to get a hundred and not win, then it doesn’t feel so sweet,” he said later. “But a hundred in a World Cup is always pretty special. In terms of their bowling attack and what they provide, they made it very difficult. So to get through the difficult periods and push on and get a hundred, that was a great feeling. It’s definitely up there, but unfortunately it’s still another losing cause.”

India’s spinners had set up the victory in Hamilton a few days ago, but here they went ducking for cover. It was good for India that its fast bowlers stepped up this time and clawed things back. India would’ve been chasing a far heftier target otherwise.

Mohit Sharma got rid of Taylor and Craig Ervine with his slower balls before Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami polished off the tail as India bowled out the opposition for the sixth straight match. In response, India lost Rohit Sharma early to Tinashe Panyangara, something that should worry Dhoni now. Shikhar Dhawan chopped the same bowler on in the same over as the side slumped to 21 for two.

Virat Kohli looked in great touch, as usual, until he was bowled around his legs by Sikandar Raza. Ajinkya Rahane was run out by the narrowest of margins and India was wobbling. Had Raina not been dropped on 47, who knows how this might have panned out. In the event, Raina went on to score an unbeaten 110 as he and Dhoni built an unbroken sixth-wicket partnership of 196. India completed its highest run chase in World Cups.

Raina and Dhoni have a habit of doing well in each other’s company and average over 62 as a partnership, more than any other pair in ODI cricket with more than 3000 runs together. They ran extremely well between wickets, found the gap with ease, and put loose balls away. They knew that with the size of the boundaries they could explode in the final 10 overs. Also, Zimbawe’s bowling lacked teeth. It’s medium-pacers had swung the new ball well but with no real pace they were unlikely to trouble batsmen as well set as Raina and Dhoni.

“If you’re playing your last game of the league stage and if you get an easy win, you don’t get a lot out of that game,” Dhoni said. “The spinners were put under pressure; we also lost quick wickets initially and that put our middle and lower-middle-order under pressure. So we gained a lot out of it.” He added: “The knock by Raina was very crucial. Batting at number five, you get an opportunity to bat maybe after the 38th, 39th over if your top order is batting well. You get out trying to play big shots and you don’t get too many runs. At the end of the day when you get into the knock-out stages you want to have runs under your belt. It doesn’t really matter how many runs; once you get going, it just gives you that good feeling. Since 2005, two of us have batted together in many instances. It’s because of that, that we jell really well. The key is for both batsmen to run well between the wickets and to make sure when they get loose deliveries to get the most out of it. You can’t always rely on the big shots.”

India signed off with an unblemished record in the group stages.