Played five, won five – the India juggernaut rolled on easier than a snowball in an avalanche, with Ireland the latest team to come under the unstoppable storm raging on at this ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
Needing a win to ensure top spot in Pool B, India stopped Ireland at 259 all out in 49 overs on a batting beauty, with the batsmen then cruising home with consummate ease in Hamilton to help MS Dhoni join Clive Lloyd, and beat Sourav Ganguly, on second in the list of most consecutive wins as captain in the World Cup with nine. Ireland now need to beat Pakistan, in what promises to be a humdinger, in their final group match to ensure qualification to the quarterfinals.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma put on the highest opening partnership for India in World Cups, allying for 174 runs in just 23.2 overs, and with the match won by then, Dhawan marched on to his second hundred in this CWC 2015, with Virat Kohli getting in a bit more batting practice at the other end as India coasted to the target with 13.1 overs to spare.
It might have been a bit different, though, had Ireland hung on to their catches early on. Dhawan was dropped twice, both off John Mooney's bowling; first, by the bowler himself off a drive hit back at him, and then by the skipper William Porterfield, who could not hang on to a diving effort at point.
Dhawan made them pay for that miss, and how, with a step up by a few gears after the Batting Powerplay, to move closer to his hundred. Both batsmen played their patented shots, while clearing the short boundaries with ease as well, and once they got going there was little Ireland could do to stop them.
Rohit finally fell to Stuart Thompson in over number 24, chopping one on, but that did not stop the Dhawan, charge, with the left-hander helping himself to an eighth ODI hundred, in just 84 balls, and fell immediately after to Thompson, but by then the match was well and truly done.
Earlier, the India opening bowlers got tonked in the first ten overs for the first time at this World Cup, but the spinners, led by R Ashwin, tied them in knots to reclaim the bowling dominance and with it restrict Ireland to a never-gonnabe-enough score.
With first spot in Pool B in sight, India went in with the same XI from the last game, and the intensity, the drive and the want to make it five wins out of five in this CWC was right up there, even if Ireland got off to a rollicking start courtesy William Porterfield and Paul Stirling.
Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav struggled to adjust to the New Zealand conditions to start with, bowling way too short and asking for trouble with the short boundaries.
Ireland zoomed to 60/0 after the 10 Powerplay overs, and MS Dhoni, understanding the need to take the pace off the ball, brought in Ashwin. That changed the course of the innings completely, with Ashwin (10-1-38-2), bowling well, keeping it nice and slow, bringing out his repertoire of variations and halting the Ireland run flow considerably.
The result of that was an inevitable wicket, with Stirling (42, 41b, 4x4, 2x6) holing out in the deep to give Ashwin a deserved wicket, while Ed Joyce, the centurion from the last game against Zimbabwe, fell soon after, castled by a quicker one by Suresh Raina, who bowled his entire quota of 10 overs for just 40 runs.
Porterfield and Niall O'Brien started the innings-rebuild with a 53 run partnership, which took 14 overs, but the skipper was sent back by Mohit Sharma. However, the Ireland momentum only picked up after the wicket of Porterfield (67, 93b, 5x4, 1x6) as Andrew Balbirnie came in and allied for a quickfire 61 in 7.4 overs with Niall O'Brien.
Niall O'Brien (75, 75b, 7x4, 3x6) was the aggressor in the partnership, taking the spinners and the faster bowlers on to great effect to keep Ireland on track for a score near 300, which would have been just about par on this wicket.
However, India knew it was about picking up wickets, and even if Ireland scored 41 runs in the Batting Powerplay (35-40 overs), they also picked up a couple of wickets – that of Balbirnie (24, 24b, 3x4) and the dangerous Kevin O'Brien, who fell to Ashwin, off the final ball of his 10 overs, and Shami respectively in the space of four deliveries.
Gary Wilson, another danger man, also came and went quickly, with all Irish hopes pinned on Niall O'Brien. However, Shami ensured there would be no slam-bang in the final overs from him, as the batsman picked out Umesh Yadav at square-leg, which pretty much ended Ireland's charge, with India going on to bowl their opponents out, and with it creating a record of doing just that for five consecutive games for the first time in their history.
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