India Cruise into Semi-Finals with Comprehensive Win over West Indies

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India Cruise into Semi-Finals with Comprehensive Win over West Indies
Michael Steele/Getty Images
Man-of-the-match Ravindra Jadeja was too much for the West Indian batsmen

In overcast conditions, India's skipper MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to bowl first. The West Indies team was forced to make one change due to the suspension of wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin. Former captain Daren Sammy was brought back into the team, and opening batsman Johnson Charles was asked to replace Ramdin with the gloves.

West Indies made a brisk start as Chris Gayle treated fast bowler Umesh Yadav with some degree of disdain. Yadav's length was repeatedly short against South Africa in India's first match of the tournament, and not much changed today as he struggled again with both his line and length.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the 23-year-old pacer, has shown much promise in the early stages of his career. He's a cool customer with a level head, and that's precisely what India required after a shaky start from Yadav and Ishant Sharma.

Kumar bowled well to the tall intimidating figure of Gayle, beating him a few times before he pitched a delivery just short of a good length and moving across the left-hander to produce an edge. Gayle looked to play a forcing shot rooted to the crease, but only managed to find Ravichandran Ashwin at first slip, who took a sharp catch above his head.

Gayle fell with the score on 25 at the end of the fifth over. Johnson Charles looked to carry on in similar fashion as he punished any length deliveries on offer. Charles is an unusual customer to deal with; he shows little or no emotion and is inclined to throw his bat at just about everything.

With his partner Darren Bravo unable to rotate the strike or find the gaps, Charles took up the challenge as he hit Kumar for consecutive boundaries and followed that up by hammering Yadav for three successive boundaries in the next over.

 After the first 15 overs, a score in excess of 280 looked to be on the cards, but as is often the case with the West Indies, their innings had more than a few twists awaiting them. With Bravo soaking up deliveries at one end, Charles continued to motor along, bringing up his half-century in just 46 deliveries with seven fours and a six.

 The turning point in the match came when Dhoni introduced Ravindra Jadeja to the attack. Jadeja didn't take long to settle, striking in his second over. The left-arm orthodox bowler was able to remove the hard-hitting Charles with a quicker, flatter delivery, which trapped Charles on the back foot plumb in front for a well-played 60 from 55 deliveries.

 Marlon Samuels sauntered to the crease as only he can, but his stay was short-lived with Jadeja producing a delivery which pitched and straightened, just striking the pad first before it ricocheted onto his bat.

Samuels was out for 1 and the West Indies were in a spot of bother with three batsmen back in the shed, and slipping from 103/1 to 105/3. It wasn't just the two quick wickets, but the fact that the West Indian batting relies so heavily on Gayle and Samuels.

In walked Ramaresh Sarwan, a man woefully out of form and short on self-confidence. At the other end, Bravo showed no initiative to up the tempo, and captain Dhoni was only too happy to tighten the screws.

With a slip and leg slip in place, Sarwan was feeling the pressure. Unable to score, he looked to tickle a wide delivery from Jadeja down the leg side but only managed to find the gloves of Dhoni.

With the score on 109/4, big-hitting Kieron Pollard and Bravo were forced to consolidate; the next nine overs saw just 31 runs added before Bravo danced down the track to Jadeja only to play a limp push...he missed, and Dhoni did the rest removing the bails.

Skipper Dwayne Bravo added 23 with Pollard before being dismissed caught on the deep-mid-wicket boundary, just failing to clear the ropes. From 103/1 the West Indies slumped to 163/6.

But it was the discarded Darren Sammy, former captain to 12th man almost overnight, who was to restore some respectability to the total. Sammy, in typically belligerent fashion, bludgeoned his way to 56 not out from just 35 deliveries with five fours and four massive sixes.

Sammy pumped his fist at the dressing room upon reaching his half-century, almost in anger if nothing else.

The West Indies closed on 233/9, a total that was never going to threaten the Indians but would have given them some momentum at the break due to Sammy’s heroics. Jadeja was easily the pick of the bowlers for India; finishing with figures of 5/36 from 10 overs of clever, crafty bowling.

Sometimes teams stumble when chasing these sorts of “in-between” totals, but it appeared as though the Indians had a clear game plan: be positive from the onset.

Shikhar Dhawan, who scored a century in India’s opening match against South Africa, and Rohit Sharma, were relentless in their attack on the West Indian pacers as they dominated from the start of the Indian innings.

Both batsmen are in wonderful form and they cashed in all loose deliveries the bowlers served up, and there were many.

Kemar Roach, man-of-the-match in the previous game against South Africa, was treated with scant respect. Roach went wicket-less and conceded 47 runs in just six overs.

Dhawan and Sharma peppered the boundaries with regularity as India raced to an opening stand of 101 in 15.3 overs before Sharma was caught down the leg side by Johnson Charles off the bowling of Sunil Narine.

The silky smooth Virat Kohli wasted no time settling in as he struck four exquisite boundaries in his brief stay at the crease.

Kohli looked to force a straight delivery from Narine through the leg side but only managed to get an inside edge on to his stumps. The temperamental Kohli was dismissed for 22 from 18 deliveries.

With the score on 127/2, the West Indians may have thought they were in with a sniff, but Dhawan had visions of a second successive century and he marched on unflustered by the two wickets to fall.

The opening batsman played some scintillating strokes to all parts of the ground; pulling, cutting, hooking and driving. Dhawan could do no wrong and he brought up his century in style, slashing a wide delivery from Dwayne Bravo over backward point for six.

Dhawan was unbeaten on 102 not out from just 107 deliveries, ably supported by Dinesh Karthik, who chipped in with a well-played 51 not out.

The West Indies will face South Africa on Friday; the winner will join India as the other team in Group B to advance to the semi-finals. The loser will be forced to re-assess and return home.

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