Image courtesy of: The Express Tribune
Dhawan’s century stole the limelight once again
Jeetega bhai jeetega, Shikhar Dhawan jeetega would have been the chant of all the Indian fans in the crowd at The Oval in London after the opener scored yet another masterclass century to book India a place in the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy.
The West Indies were coming into this match looking to book their own spot in the semi-finals after narrowly edging past Pakistan in their first game of the tournament.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to bowl first due to the overcast conditions.
Indian pace bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar provided the early breakthrough for India, taking the key wicket of Chris Gayle, who was looking threatening after having smashed four boundaries on his way to 21 before being dismissed.
However, Johnson Charles looked to be in a class of his own as he absolutely dispatched the Indian bowling attack all over the ground on his way to a quickfire half-century and 78-run partnership with Darren Bravo.
Johnson’s luck ran out soon after he crossed the half-century mark as he was given out lbw to Ravindra Jadeja on 60 off 55 balls, which included seven boundaries and two massive sixes.
Johnson’s wicket gave India the spark they needed and it resulted in Jadeja picking up the wickets of Marlon Samuels and Ramnaresh Sarwan in quick succession.
Darren Bravo and his older brother, Dwayne Bravo, who is also the captain of the West Indies, rescued the West Indies from a dire situation with a 31-run partnership before the younger Bravo was caught off the bowling of Umesh Yadav.
Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine and Ravi Rampaul failed to last much longer as they were sent back to the pavilion almost as quickly as they had walked out to the middle.
However, the West Indies’ innings was propelled forward by an outstanding lone effort from Darren Sammy, who scored an unbelievable 56 runs off just 35 balls, which included five boundaries and four sixes to take the West Indies to 233 at the end of their 50 overs.
Jadeja was definitely the pick of the Indian bowlers with a five-wicket haul, while Kumar, Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin each snapped up one wicket apiece.
Chasing a relatively simple target of 235, India’s opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan got the team off to a flying start as they blew past the half-century partnership mark in almost no time at all.
Sharma also brought up his own half-century soon enough, but was dismissed almost immediately after when trying to play a delicate shot down the leg side that was beautifully caught by Charles, bringing an end to his innings of 52 and the 101-run partnership.
Dhawan also registered yet another half-century, but showed no signs of slowing down, despite the loss of Virat Kohli, who was looking in impeccable touch after having scored 22 off 18 deliveries before being completely bamboozled by Narine.
Dinesh Karthik provided excellent support for Dhawan as the pair easily knocked off the runs needed to take India into the semi-finals.
Dhawan ended up scoring his second century of the tournament and Karthik finished off the match in style by reaching his half-century with a lofted drive.
In the end, India reached their target with 10.5 overs to spare.
Sunil Narine was the only West Indian bowler with any wickets as he got rid of both Sharma and Kohli.
West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo was quick to admit that his side had scored nowhere near enough runs to make the match competitive.
“Not enough runs, after the start we got, we deserved to have got 40-50 runs more, having said that, the Indians bowled well, had their plans and stuck to it,” Bravo said. “Congratulations to Sammy for coming back into the team and performing. We need to work on working the ball around, our strike-rates as middle-order batsmen. Definitely we bowled too wide, fast outfield, gotta give credit to the Indian batters, we still have a good chance to qualify. Sunil is our key bowler but not enough runs, he bowled very well, my aim was to make sure he bowled out. The next match is like a final itself, we know it is not going to be an easy game, but we know we have the talent to do it.”
Dhoni meanwhile, was full of praise for Jadeja, Sharma, Dhawan and Karthik for their outstanding individual performances.
“Overall a very good performance, WI got to a very good start, they seemed like they would get 280 runs or so, our bowlers did very well after that, our bowlers were able to keep the batsmen at their respective ends, didn’t let them rotate easily,” he said. “You think I know him (Jadeja) well, but even I’m finding out over a period of time. I think the execution was not really there (at the death). We’d been happy with 230 at the outset. I think the young batsmen have accepted the challenge, Dhawan did well in the Tests, Rohit took up the challenge of opening the batting, also it helps that we have changed into a very good fielding side. (crowd cheers when asked about Pakistan game) I don’t think Indian team has every played a dead game, I think it is also important in areas where we want to improve.”
Jadeja edged out Dhawan for the Man of the Match award, and said: “I was just trying to bowl in the right areas, I played here against England and took two wickets, I’m just trying to give my good performance. I was just bowling wicket-to-wicket and letting the pitch do the rest.”