Another day at the 2019 World Cup, another clinical bowling performance by India.
Virat Kohli might have walked away with the man of the match award for his milestone-filled half century against the West Indies in Manchester on Thursday, but it was the bowlers who once again delivered the knock-out punch (quite literally, as the Caribbean side are now out of semi-final contention).
India are now the only unbeaten team left in the tournament as we enter the business end.
While the batting order looked circumspect once again in absence of big runs from both the openers, India’s 125-run victory ultimately was a stroll in the second half as West Indies never got going in the run-chase. Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were once again in top form, making the debate about whether India got enough runs on the board, redundant.
Here we all were, debating about the top order wasting starts, the middle order struggling etc etc... But Kohli must have been sitting in the dressing room thinking “sub-par score? so what!” with this bowling lineup.
Here’s our ratings for India’s performances in the match against WI:
Batting: 48 off 64 balls
This is getting a bit tricky now, isn’t it? So far, after being asked to open the batting at the World Cup, KL Rahul has managed scores of 57, 30 and 48. On paper, those are not bad returns. But you only had to listen to his interview with the broadcasters after the match to know what the problem is: He admitted getting an earful from the captain after getting out in the last match (playing the reverse sweep). He knew at least one of the top three have to convert a good start into a big score because India’s tail starts at No. 8. Full 10 points for game awareness, but with the bat in his hand, he once again threw away a good start.
Batting: 18 off 23 balls
We have seen a thousand replays of the dismissal and we are still not sure if there was an inside edge. But Rohit was given the marching orders by third umpire Michael Gough in double-quick time. If the final result had not gone India’s way, this would have been a much bigger story. But for now, file this under bizarre by the umpire, bad luck for Rohit... and we move on. (Back-to-back low scores for Rohit, but given the circumstances, no reason to panic yet.)
Virat Kohli (Player of the match)
Runs: 72 off 82 balls
Against Afghanistan, Kohli’s scoring rate during his innings of 67 off 63 balls, was considerably higher than the rest of his team, on a tricky pitch. It seemed like he was batting on a different pitch. While the numbers won’t tell you quite that for the match against West Indies (with both Dhoni and Hardik Pandya scoring quicker), Kohli once again made batting look easy when he was in the middle. The Indian captain scored his fourth consecutive half century at the ongoing World Cup and crossed more milestones during his knock, the most significant being the fastest to score 20,000 international runs.
The only concern (and we use that word mildly) is that Kohli has now failed to convert his last four half centuries into centuries. The last time that happened was between March and September 2011. That aspect of his batting has been very un-Kohliesque in this tournament. His soft dismissal will only hurt him even more.
Batting: 14 off 19 balls
On one hand, it was a very good delivery from Kemar Roach that got rid of Vijay. On the other, this is India’s No. 4 at a World Cup: you would hope he has the batting technique to negotiate an outswinger. Right now, confidence seems to be low for the Tamil Nadu all-rounder and, going by the sample size of a few thousand fans on Twitter, patience seems to be running low with him as well. But, unlike the chopping and changing with this position that has got India to this point, one can only hope that the management is a little more patient with him during the World Cup.
Batting: 7 off 10 balls
Rahul and Vijay can be excused for getting out to good deliveries but Jadhav’s dismissal, after getting a golden chance to bat at No 5, was inexcusable for the lethargy of it. That lazy poke outside offstump will (or should) haunt him. His position in the side continues to be secure because Kohli sees him as a third spinner, with pitches slowing down. But given the fact that he is barely bowling, that window of reasoning is fast closing.
Batting: 56 off 61 balls
Wicket-keeping: One (very good) catch
Let’s get one thing out of the way: Despite what the host broadcasters would make you want to think, Dhoni’s innings was not exactly the difference between the two sides. Yes, he finished the innings off in style with 16 off the last over. But one has to wonder whether he could try to accelerate perhaps a *little* earlier than the last over when batting first?
Finishing with 56 off 61 is great but surely there is a slightly less complicated way to reach there instead of two wildly contrasting halves to the innings? Well, Kohli does not seem bothered and maybe we should not be either.
Batting: 46 off 38 balls
More than Dhoni’s innings, it was Pandya’s cameo that changed the complexion of the innings for India. Despite the fact there was no insurance of a decent tail-ender, Pandya went about his hard-hitting ways without ever being overly reckless. His superb 46 gave India the momentum in the death overs and took the side to a score that was eventually way too good for the West Indies. And with the ball, once again, Pandya chipped in with a partnership-breaking wicket.
Batting: 0 off 2 balls
One four-wicket haul with a match-winning hat-trick was followed by another four-wicket haul with the match-clinching wicket at the top: that of Chris Gayle. As ordinary as the Universe Boss’ footwork is these days, no one at this World Cup exposed it as badly as Shami did in Manchester. Gayle was, on more than one occasion, beaten by sheer pace, the awkward good length and stunning seam position of Shami before he hit a pull shot straight to mid-on. And the in-dipper to dismiss Shai Hope? Perhaps only Mithcell Starc’s yorker to Ben Stokes has had more wow-factor to it at this World Cup.
Batting: 0 off 1 ball
Looked more threatening than he did against Afghanistan, even if the figures do not reflect that. It’s been an up-and-down World Cup for Kuldeep so far and he now seems to be playing second fiddle to Chahal for most part instead of the primary wicket-taking option he has been for India in the last two years. But, having said that, the confidence is certainly returning and with the pitches getting slower, he might still come into his own when it matters.
Look at those bowling figures. What could we say that those numbers don’t? Nothing more to add apart from the fact when he is bowling those deadly spells (a double-wicket maiden for the second match running), it’s hard not to let your jaws drop repeatedly.
Got a little bit of stick at the end from the free-swinging tail-enders but Chahal was once again a delight to watch as he tossed up the ball with confidence and heart, like he always does. His dismissal of Jason Holder was a well-thought out move in consultation with Kohli... and the chess-player continues to impress with tactical nous.