India wallops Bermuda

It was only Bermuda. But it matters, a lot. After being upset by Bangladesh, it was important that India came back, with a bang. And they did, even if it was against an easy opposition. India first notched up the highest ever score in World Cups, also their best ever in ODIs, and then dismissed Bermuda for 156, to register their first win in the tournament by 257 runs, the largest margin ever in ODIs.

After putting India into bat on a dark and gloomy day, Bermuda’s decision seem justified when Robin Uthappa, opening this time instead of Virender Sehwag, was dismissed on the first ball of the second over, caught fantastically at first slip by the hefty Dwayne Leverock off the bowling of Malachi Jones for just three.

That, however, unfortunately for Bermuda was their only moment of glory during the Indian innings. It was all downhill from then on, as first Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly, and then Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar tormented the inexperienced bowlers on their way to taking the team score past 400. After Uthappa’s dismissal, Ganguly took over the anchor role clearly looking to want to play out the entire innings, while at the other end Sehwag settled in and then went on to play his natural game, after what seems like a very long time.

It was very important that Sehwag got some runs under his belt before the crucial match against Sri Lanka, after being out of form since eternity. Fortunately for India, today was the day he came good. It was probably his best chance of scoring, for the Bermuda bowling is mediocre at best, and he made sure he did not throw it away. Once he got into gear, all the shots that once made him famous started coming back: spectacular drives over cover, bludgeoning the bowler over his head for massive sixes, sweet inside-out shots against the slower bowlers etc. – he played them all with the same ease and fluency as when bowlers around the world used to fear him just a handful of years back.

Along with Ganguly, he put on a 202-run partnership while also crossing the personal three-figure mark only the second time in three years, that really set-up the onslaught that followed in the finals overs from the bats of Yuvraj and Tendulkar. Not to forget was Ganguly?s patient innings of 89, something that has become characteristic of him since he returned from exile a few months back.

The only time Sehwag looked unsure in his entire innings was in his late 90s, when he had a few play-and-misses. Once he crossed the milestone though, he was back his own self. He perished soon however, trying to make the most of the Powerplay between overs 26 and 30, when he edged an attempted slog off a fullish delivery by Kevin Hurdle to mid-off, with the team score having just crossed 200.

Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, promoted above the likes of Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj carried on the innings from then on, albeit at a slower pace than expected. But just when Ganguly started opening his arms, he fell stumped off the bowling of Delyone Borden. Dhoni soon followed, getting out once again just when he started being aggressive, caught of a strayed a hit over mid-wicket straight down the ground, only to be caught magnificently by Janeiro Tucker.

At this point of time, with the score at 269-4 in the 39th over, it started looking difficult for India to go much past 350. But Yuvraj and Tendulkar displayed some of the best hitting, methodical and effective, one would ever see. Yuvraj, who ended up scoring 83 off just 46 balls, was particularly severe on the left-arm spinner Leverock, launching a series of big ones over the mid-wicket. Tendulkar, who started cautiously, picked up soon too, ending up unbeaten on 57 off only 29 balls.

The master batsman has often been criticized over the last few of being past his best, of losing much of repertoire of shots. But he proved today that he still has the ability to cause enough damage with just one shot. Most of his runs came in the extra-cover region, just stepping a little onto the leg side, and lofting the ball over the field. India did lose Yuvraj in the finals overs caught by Jones off Leverock, but Tendulkar made sure they went past 400. And when Dravid hit the last ball of the innings for a six, the 18th in the innings, the scorecard read 413-5, the highest innings score ever in a World Cup match.

What needed to be seen now was how long India takes to dismiss Bermuda; obviously Bermuda did not have any realistic chance of causing an upset. It was imperative for India that they bundle out the minnows as soon as possible, for as low a score as possible, so as to improve their net run rate to a level which Bangladesh would have a tough time catching up to, if India defeats Sri Lanka and their points are tied.

Zaheer Khan provided the ideal start to their bowling, scalping both the openers Oliver Pitched and Steven Outerbridge within his first four overs, both cleaned bowled. India was denied another wicket during the opening bowlers’ spells, with a minor partnership developing between Delyone Borden and English county player David Hemp. Just when it looked that India might have trouble bundling out the inexperience Bermuda batting line-up, Borden fell to Munaf Patel, leg before. Television replays showed however that the ball had hit the batsman high on the pads and would have gone over the stumps.

Anil Kumble, brought into this match as a replacement for Harbhajan Singh, joined the attack, and was successful instantly. First, he accounted for Irvine Romaine’s wicket, found plumb in front for a duck. There was some doubt as to whether he hit the ball with his bat, but in the end it does not matter since the short leg had grasped the catch after the ball popped up. Tucker was the next to go, without scoring, cleaned up by a straighter one that he missed all ends up, reducing Bermuda to 63-5 in the 19th over.

There was another little partnership, frustrating for India, between Hemp and Dean Minors, worth 43 runs. While Minors looked uncomfortable, and hardly dragging himself through, Hemp looked more assured, which was probably expected of him, being the most experienced batsman in the line-up. Minors was eventually dismissed in the 30th over, with the Bermuda having just crossed the three-figure mark. He mis-hit a pull off Ajit Agarkar to substitute fielder Dinesh Karthik at mid-off.

Minors’s wicket was followed by another tumble of batsmen, as tailenders Lionel Cann and Hurdle fell to Agarkar too, who had started off not so well, but still ended up with figures of 3-38. Cann was caught at short cover by Uthappa, in what seemed to be controversial circumstances. The field was absolutely certain that he had his fingers beneath the ball before his hands touched the ground, and the umpires tended to agree so. But Cann was reluctant in walking, and rightly so, as replays did not conclusively show whether or not the catch had been taken legally.

From then on, it was only a matter of time before the innings was closed out. The only positive for Bermuda was Hemp passing his fifty, becoming their first player to score a half century in World Cup. He was left stranded at 76, as Leverock and Jones fell, with the formed showing some resistance before being dismissed caught behind by Tendulkar. Jones was picked up by Kumble, as the innings was closed at 156, a little bit later than India would have hoped.

India still managed to win the match by a mammoth margin, thus improving their net run rate. Their fate in the World Cup now depends on whether or not they can beat Sri Lanka, and if they do, they will have to hope that Bermuda does not have their worst day out against Bangladesh.

India 413-5 in 50 overs
Sourav Ganguly 89 (114), Virender Sehwag 114 (87), Yuvraj Singh 83 (46), Sachin Tendulkar 57* (29)
Delyone Borden 2-30 (5)

Bermuda 156 all out in 43.1 overs
David Hemp 76* (105)
Zaheer Khan 2-32 (10), Ajit Agarkar 3-38 (10), Anil Kumble 3-38 (9.1)

Man of the Match: Virender Sehwag (India)

India won by 257 runs

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