Spinners save the day

William Porterfield, the Ireland captain, made 67 and Paul Stirling, 42 as India conceded the early advantage. M. S. Dhoni threw on his spinners then. At once, the brakes were applied and the Irish innings stuttered. By Shreedutta Chidananda.

Ireland did not exactly stretch India but M. S. Dhoni’s bowlers were put through something of a workout. The Ireland openers put up a 89-run stand, causing the bowlers some bother. On a flat pitch, India’s opening bowlers — Umesh Yadav in particular — did not cover themselves in glory.

Without assistance from conditions, Yadav seems to run out of ideas. He either bowled too full or too short and was deservedly punished. William Porterfield, the Ireland captain, made 67 and Paul Stirling, 42 as India conceded the early advantage.

M. S. Dhoni threw on his spinners then. At once, the brakes were applied and the Irish innings stuttered. During one phase, three off-spinners — R. Ashwin, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma — bowled continuously at Ireland’s left-handed batsmen and tied them down.

From the end of the 15th over till the end of the 25th, only 24 runs were conceded. Ashwin, who sent down eight overs in a row for 19 runs, eventually finished with figures of two for 38.

“If it was a crucial match, I would have brought them in the fourth over itself,” Dhoni said later.

Ireland posted something of a recovery but every time a partnership appeared to be building, a wicket fell. Niall O’Brien made an excellently paced 75 and in the company of the young Andre Balbirnie added 61 runs for the fourth wicket. But the last seven wickets fell for 53 runs as Ireland managed only 259.

India’s bowlers had hitherto not been required to work in the death overs; this was a test — no matter how small — and they emerged with a great deal of credit.

“Every time we started to pick up a bit of momentum we managed to lose a wicket, which is slightly disappointing,” Porterfield said later. “You have to give credit to Ashwin and the other bowlers. We could have put them under a bit more pressure, but we didn’t want to go too hot too soon after losing those couple of wickets. We knew the size of the ground and we knew we could catch up at the back end but we lost wickets at crucial times. Their spinners bowled well and they got a bit of assistance.”

He singled out Ashwin for praise. “He just varied his pace very well. It was a bit more holding up than spinning, but there was a bit of grip there for him. We could have been slightly more aggressive in that period, but I was happy with where we were at and how we had gone. We just failed to kick on from there,” Porterfield said.

For the fifth time in five matches, India bowled out its opposition. The run chase was fairly straightforward. Shikhar Dhawan, who had fallen cheaply in his previous two innings, scratched around a bit before unfurling his full repertoire of cuts and pulls. He was severe on George Dockrell, striking the left-arm spinner for two huge sixes.

Dhawan was dismissed for exactly 100, his second century of the tournament. Rohit Sharma struck the ball well during his 65; a hundred was there for the taking but the Mumbai batsman dragged Stuart Thompson on. Virat Kohli then timed the ball delightfully in his unbeaten knock of 44. Every shot seemed to come off the middle of the bat as India rushed towards the target. At the other end, Ajinkya Rahane looked equally good during his 33 as India cruised home with 13.1 overs to spare.

“Overall the difference I’ve seen in his batting is that once he gets a start he converts that into big innings,” Dhoni said of Dhawan, later. “He’s not someone who is happy getting a 50. He knows that the team needs him to score big runs. With him doing that, it becomes slightly easy for some of the other guys to bat around him, because he takes that responsibility. He’s someone who can also accelerate at a decent pace.”

The victory extends India's winning streak in the World Cup to nine straight matches — stretching back to the previous edition. All were achieved under Dhoni, thus drawing him level with Clive Lloyd, who had the same record as captain through the 1975 and 1979 editions. “As far as the records and milestones are concerned, the most important thing is winning the game for your country,” Dhoni said afterwards. “It doesn’t really matter what the milestone is. Definitely it’s something that every player will be proud of. Thanks to all the team members of the last World Cup and the current team also because it’s a team effort.”