India put one foot into the World Cup quarter-finals with a five-wicket win against the Netherlands on Wednesday, but the margin of the victory revealed little of their discomfort.
The near-capacity crowd at Feroz Shah Kotla expected a brutal onslaught when Sachin Tendulkar (27) and Virender Sehwag (39) came out to chase down a 190-run victory target against a Dutch team seeking their first win in the tournament.
The 69 runs they plundered in seven-odd overs suggested the chase was following the script when unheralded Pieter Seelar struck three body blows to lay bare the unsuspected vulnerability of the Indian top and middle order.
The 23-year-old spinner remembered more for his penguin dance after dismissing Paul Collingwood in the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup, removed Sehwag, Tendulkar — who completed 2000 World Cup runs — and Yusuf Pathan in quick succession to turn the heat on the hosts.
Dutch skipper Peter Borren also slipped one through Virat Kohli’s porous defence and at 99-4, India’s unbeaten streak seemed in jeopardy.
Fortunately for them, Yuvraj Singh seems to have taken the onus on himself to fix all the ills that plague them.
With the ball, Yuvraj (2-43) once against glossed over the failure of frontline spinners Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla and when the chase was about to derail, he wielded his bat for a cultured unbeaten 51 to steer India home in 36.3 overs.
The result almost guaranteed his side a place in the quarter--finals and should England and West Indies beat Bangladesh and Ireland respectively today, the co-hosts will be through even before they face South Africa in a highly anticipated showdown on Saturday.
Dhoni admitted the team was under pressure at one stage on Wednesday but insisted it was a decent win.
“I think winning is important and it’s not a bad win. When you see the scorecard it says India won by five wickets. It’s a big positive,” he said.
Nothing apparently could really perturb the Indian captain who gave the impression that there were no real worries with his team.
He said the misfiring speed merchants would regain form before the knock-out stage, that Harbhajan has not been among wickets because opponents are content to block him and that preferring Chawla to off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was justified because the leg-spinner needed the game to regain his confidence.
Reality, however, suggests otherwise.
Barring Zaheer Khan, the pacemen have been lackluster, failing to earn the breakthrough to set the stage for the spinners to step in and wreak havoc.
In the slow bowling department, Yuvraj has been the saving grace, but Dhoni insisted Harbhajan was not doing badly either.
“I think Harbhajan is bowling well. Other teams are blocking him and going after Yuvraj, giving him the wickets in the process. Spinners need to hunt in pairs,” he said.
The ploy to promote Yusuf Pathan (11) to allow him to spend more time in the middle did not click either as the all-rounder lasted just 10 balls.
The Indian bowlers did a decent job on Wednesday, but the abrupt mid-innings collapse convinced Dutch skipper Borren that his team had a realistic chance in the match.
“We played brave cricket today and I’m proud of our effort. Like against England, I think we had our chance of winning the match today,” Borren said.
WEEKEND MATCHES: While Tatung FC made good on their chances early on, Taiwan Steel rallied to win the game 2-3 and move to the top with Taichung Futuro Sunday’s action saw Taichung Futuro, Taipower FC and Taiwan Steel tied for first place on 30 points in the Taiwan Football Premier League, while Hang Yuan FC picked up a point to take the No. 4 spot on 25 points after holding Taipower to a scoreless draw. In Taoyuan, Tatung FC hosted Taiwan Steel. It was an exciting matchup, as the visitors rallied from 2-0 down to take the game with three goals. Tatung made good on their chances early on. Honduran midfielder Elias Argueta opened the account 15 minutes into the game with a low shot from the right. Three minutes
Ronnie O’Sullivan delivered a scathing attack on the next generation of snooker players after he made the quarter-finals of the World Snooker Championship on Sunday, ending Chinese star Ding Junhui’s world championship dream. The mercurial 44-year-old Englishman won an enthralling high-quality second-round encounter 13-10 to set up a quarter-final clash with three-time champion Mark Williams. When asked by the BBC whether he thought he would remain at the top of the game for this long, the Briton, who turned professional in 1992, said the poor quality of younger players had secured his position and that something drastic would have to happen
Max Verstappen informed his Red Bull team that he would not be driving “like a grandma” in Formula One’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix on Sunday — and he was as good as his word. The Dutch 22-year-old seized his opportunity at Silverstone, ending dominant Mercedes’ run of four successive wins this season and moving up to second place overall, 30 points behind leader Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen’s confidence shone through early on, after slotting into third place behind the two Mercedes, when he was told by race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to take care of his tires. “Mate, this is the only chance of being
FULL GAME: Henry Sosa pitched nine innings for the Guardians, allowing only six hits all night, while the Monkeys’ offense were also shut out of their game Outfielder Lin An-ko carried a big bat this week — before his Uni-President Lions ran into the Fubon Guardians last night — blasting four home runs, including a grand slam as his side won four games in a row and moved into second on the CPBL table. However, the Lions could not sustain their super-charged offense for the whole week, as they were shut out 4-0 by the Guardians in New Taipei City. Fubon’s rookie catcher, Jhang Jin-de, took a page from Lin’s playbook. With two men on, Jhang smacked a three-run homer in the sixth inning. Henry Sosa of the Dominican Republic