It was just the doctor ordered for Team India ahead of the quarter- finals. India came up with a thoroughly professional display against Ireland. Indian openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma finally put on big first wicket stand a record 174-run opening and helped India register an emphatic 8-wicket victory over Ireland in ICC World Cup 2015 Pool B match. Vice-captain Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane remained unbeaten on 44 and 33 respectively to take India to victory target of 260 in just 36.5 overs. During their record opening stand Dhawan and Rohit bettered Sachin Tendulkar and Ajay Jadeja’s 163-run stand against Kenya in 1996 to set India’s highest opening stand in World Cups.
Dhawan who was dismissed rather cheaply in the earlier games came with all guns blazing as he notched up his 8th ODI century off 84-ball. The left- hander’s knock was studded with 11 fours and five sixes. With this victory, India continued their unbeaten run in this World Cup and clinched a ninth straight victory in the quadrennial event that started from their win against the West Indies in Chennai during the 2011 edition.
It was a day of records as it saw Mahendra Singh Dhoni captain India in all these nine victories and surpassed Sourav Ganguly’s record of winning eight matches during the 2003 edition in South Africa.
Earlier, Indian bowlers who had impressed all during the tournament managed to contain the spirited Ireland for 259 in 49. Opting to bat first after winning the toss, Ireland were cruising at one stage with the scorecard reading 206 for three but Indian bowlers made a fine comeback towards the end scalping wickets for 32 runs in a phase of 6.3 overs.
In a record of sorts, India now have bowled out opposition for the fifth time in a row. Niall O’Brien with a run-a-ball 75 that had seven boundaries and three sixes was the top-scorer while skipper William Porterfield’s patient 67 off 93 balls gave the Irish a platform. However despite losing wickets in a heap, Ireland’s score is the highest among the five teams that have played against India. The middle and lower-order collapse hurt Ireland as Ravichandran Ashwin (2/38) was the most impressive Indian bowler on view although Mohammed Shami (3/41) got more wickets. Umesh Yadav (1/34) got a bit of stick while Suresh Raina (1/40) did more than what was expected of him.
For the first time in the tournament, India’s new ball attack didn’t strike in the opening spell as Porterfield and Paul Stirling batted with a lot of positive intent. Both Yadav and Shami bore the brunt. It started in the third over when Porterfield rocked back to a short delivery from Yadav and hit it over mid-wicket for a six. The Indian fast bowler then followed up with a fuller delivery which was then driven past the mid-off fielder.
The left-right combination doing well also meant that bowlers had to alter the line repeatedly which created problems. The pair added 89 runs at a quick clip before India’s best bowler on the day Ashwin beat Stirling in flight as he lofted one without reaching to the pitch of the delivery and Rahane at long-off took a simple catch.
With Ed Joyce (2) coming in, Dhoni had two left-handers to deal with and his response was to put Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina in operation from both ends. Raina in fact got Joyce early which brought in the elder of O’Brien brothers Niall. O’Brien-Porterfield duo then added 53 runs for the third wicket. The Irish captain, who has had a quiet tournament so far, got his 50 off 65 balls as O’Brien also played himself in not taking too many chances initially.
Porterfield was out trying to whip a Mohit delivery over deep mid-wicket but only got a leading edge for Umesh to run backwards from his mid-off position to take a nice catch. It was after Porterfield’s dismissal that O’Brien took off. His first 20 runs came off 39 balls with two boundaries but he blasted his next 55 runs off 36 balls with five more boundaries and three big sixes to his credit.
In fact, he reached his 14th ODI half-century with a six over long-on off Ashwin. To celebrate the feat, he dispatched Jadeja over mid-wicket in the very next over while Yadav also got the same treatment with as many as 61 runs were added for the fifth wicket with Andy Balbirnie (24) in just 7.4 overs.
But once Balbirnie was dismissed by Ashwin trying to go for a sweep shot, the innings fell apart and the chances of reaching close to 300 vanished . But nevertheless the Irish gave a good account of themselves in the match.