Dhawan powers India to easy win over Ireland
India took apart a diligent but limited Ireland attack to sweep to an untroubled eight-wicket victory at Seddon Park on Tuesday which confirmed they will top Pool B in the cricket World Cup.
After dismissing Ireland for 249 with an over to spare when their spinners established a stranglehold on the top-order batting, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan played themselves in for a token couple of overs.
They then launched a full-blooded attack, alternating flowing drives with explosive pulls while also pushing around the ball for comfortable singles.
Dhawan was dropped on five when John Mooney failed to hold a fierce caught-and-bowled chance. After scoring five further runs he was dropped again off the unlucky Mooney, this time at backward point when captain William Porterfield parried a stinging cut but was unable to hang on to the rebound.
Those were the only times the Irish bowlers looked like taking a wicket and the duo took the score to 174 when Sharma chopped medium pacer Stuart Thompson on to his stumps and was out for 64 from 66 balls.
With the Indian supporters making a tremendous din, Dhawan took a single to complete his eighth one-day century from 84 balls with five sixes but was then caught off the following ball he faced from Thompson.
Virat Kohli (44 not out) and Ajinkya Rahane (33 not out) took their team to victory with 13.1 overs to spare.
Porterfield elected to bat on a warm afternoon before a capacity crowd of 11,000 packed into a picturesque ground in New Zealand's fourth largest city and all seemed set fair for the Irish when the captain and Paul Stirling put on 89 for the first wicket from 15 overs.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni turned to his spinners and Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina responded by first frustrating then dismissing the Irish batsmen who found boundaries hard to come by after the initial flurry.
Stirling (42) lofted a simple catch to long-off off Ashwin's bowling and Ed Joyce was bowled for two trying to cut a ball from Raina which was too full for the shot.
Porterfield was reduced to pushing the ball for singles and was finally caught for 67 skying the ball while trying to accelerate.
Niall O'Brien was the top scorer with 75 including three sixes, one of which was helped over the boundary rope by Mohammed Shami leaping high to try to take the catch.
O'Brien, swinging vigorously to the leg side, kept the scoreboard moving but wickets fell regularly at the other end, including that of the dangerous Kevin O'Brien who was caught behind for one from a thin edge off Shami.
India were on course for a fifth successive victory at the cricket World Cup on Tuesday after dismissing Ireland for 259 with an over to spare on a good batting pitch at Seddon Park.
An Indian victory would confirm their position at the top of Pool B while Ireland needed to win one of their two remaining matches to edge out West Indies for a place in the quarter-finals.
Niall O'Brien top-scored for the Irish, reaching 75, including three sixes, one of which was helped over the boundary rope by Mohammed Shami leaping high to try to take the catch.
After a bright Irish start, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni turned to his spinners and Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina combined to frustrate the batsmen who found boundaries hard to come by on a warm day in New Zealand's fourth largest city.
Ireland captain William Porterfield opted to bat after winning the toss and set the early pace when he hooked Umesh Yadav for six over mid-wicket and followed up with a firm push through mid-off which beat the fielders to the boundary.
Paul Stirling lofted Shami for six to leg in the next over and hit two off the back foot to the boundary.
The pair raced to the half century from 47 balls before Dhoni decided to introduce spin in the form of Jadeja and Ashwin who immediately put a brake on the scoring.
Stirling reached 42 when he lofted a simple catch to long-off off Ashwin's bowling and Ed Joyce was bowled for two trying to cut a ball from Raina which was too full for the shot.
Porterfield was reduced to pushing the ball for singles and was finally caught for 67 skying the ball while trying to accelerate when paceman Mohit Sharma was reintroduced to the attack.
O'Brien, swinging vigorously on the leg side, kept the scoreboard moving but wickets fell regularly at the other end, including that of the dangerous Kevin O'Brien who was caught behind for one from a thin edge off Shami.
Two wickets fell in one Shami over when Niall O'Brien was caught followed by that of Stuart Thompson who was run out for two following a direct hit on the stumps at the bowler's end by Virat Kohli.
Ireland, who need to win one of their remaining two cricket World Cup matches to grab a quarter-final place ahead of West Indies, opted to bat first after winning the toss against India at Seddon Park on Tuesday.
India were unchanged while Ireland, whose bowling has been the weakest feature of their game during the tournament, brought in pace bowler Stuart Thompson for spinner Andy McBrine.
Defending champions India won all four of their opening matches in Australia and victory over the Irish would ensure they top the group.
The teams have played each other twice, in Belfast in 2007 and at the 2011 World in Bangalore, with India winning both times.
The Pool B match in New Zealand's fourth-largest city attracted a capacity crowd of 11,000 to the pleasant tree-ringed ground, which features two banks built from soil extracted from the nearby rugby union stadium.
"We've approached each match with great clarity and great professionalism," Ireland captain William Porterfield said on the eve of the match.
"We've prepared really well. It's a quicker turnaround for this game than what we've necessarily had before but it's a good place we're in and we've got to start afresh." India have been unrecognisable from the team who failed to win a game in New Zealand last year and endured a miserable time in Australia before the World Cup.
A relaxed MS Dhoni said he was not unhappy about losing the toss as it would give his side the opportunity to chase a target.
Ireland won toss and decided to bat
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav
Ireland: William Porterfield (capt), Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Niall O'Brien, Andy Balbirnie, Gary Wilson, Kevin O'Brien, John Mooney, Stuart Thompson, Alex Cusack, George Dockrell
Referees: Kumar Dharmasena (Umpire), Richard Kettleborough (Umpire), Johan Cloete (TV umpire), Chris Broad (Match referee)
Ireland face defending champions India on Tuesday where a shock victory would put them into the World Cup quarter-finals and leave either Pakistan or West Indies facing elimination.
Non-Test playing Ireland have already hunted down two Full Members - the West Indies and Zimbabwe - in Pool B so far on their way to six points from four matches but know they will expect no mercy against India who have won all four matches so far to comfortably reach the last-eight.
"I don't think their guard will ever be down and they're not going to look to lose any momentum from their point of view. Whatever they decide to do is out of our control," said Ireland captain William Porterfield.
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Ireland are no strangers to upsetting big teams.
They famously ousted Pakistan from the 2007 World Cup held in the West Indies on their way to the Super Eights where they beat Bangladesh and then defeated England in the 2011 tournament.
Ireland started their campaign with a shock four-wicket win over former champions the West Indies and then outlasted United Arab Emirates by two wickets.
They came down with a nasty bump against rampaging South Africa in their third match, losing by 201 runs, before they upset Zimbabwe in a five-run thriller in Hobart on Saturday.
"We've just got to keep all the momentum and keep improving the little things and keep taking things forward," said Porterfield, whose team play Pakistan in their last group match in Adelaide on March 15.
"We've been able to win three from four so we're doing something right along the way," said the Irish captain whose team has lost both their one-day internationals against India - the last in the 2011 World Cup.
Porterfield hopes his bowlers lift their performance against a batting power-house like India after conceding 304 runs against the West Indies and 411 against South Africa.
In contrast, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is pleased with his bowling which was considered a weakness before the tournament.
"I feel the contribution of all the bowlers is superb," said Dhoni of his attack who bowled the West Indies out for just 182 in their last game and South Africa for 177.
"Umesh (Yadav) is bowling well, he is bowling quick. (Mohammad) Shami has taken the extra responsibility of bowling with the new ball, and it gives Mohit (Sharma) a bit more time in the middle order with a bit more feel, and he has been very consistent."
Dhoni admitted the shorter boundaries in New Zealand, where they play their first match after four in Australia, is a concern.
"Yes, the short boundaries will be a bit of a concern, but overall, again, it will be good exposure for the bowlers, the reason being we are nicely positioned in the table right now, but we would still like to give our best," said Dhoni.
It's understood that India will try their bench strength before the quarter-finals by resting one of their frontline fast bowlers.
India seamer Mohit Sharma warned Monday that the defending World Cup champions' razor-sharp attack will only be judged fully once they are exposed to a desperate, late innings assault.
India have already qualified for the quarter-finals after seeing off Pakistan, South Africa, the UAE and West Indies and a win over Ireland at Seddon Park on Tuesday will guarantee top spot in Pool B.
The pace trio of Mohammad Shami (nine wickets), Umesh Yadav (six) and Sharma (six) have been instrumental in their team's success, but Sharma is still braced for potential run gluts in the closing overs of matches.
"We have performed well as a unit," said the 26-year-old right-arm fast bowler.
"But there is no limit to doing well, I feel that we have not faced the pressure of the slog overs and there is a lot to do."
Sharma said the shorter boundaries in New Zealand will not be a concern despite India having played all four games so far in Australia, at the major Test venues of Adelaide, Melbourne and twice in Perth.
"It makes a little bit of difference in the mindset of the bowlers," said Sharma.
"You have to adjust your line and length but it's the same for both teams. We don't want to disturb our momentum by thinking that, so we will concentrate on our strengths."
Sharma is being utilised by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni as a first change bowler once Shami and Yadav have had the early overs.
"Shami and Umesh are bowling well with the new ball and putting on a lot of pressure. My job is to maintain that pressure.
"I keep that pressure on so that spinners (Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Ravindra) Jadeja can take them on," said the bowler, who was a late call-up to the squad to replace experienced paceman Ishant Sharma.
Mohit, who has played just 16 ODIs, was generous in his praise of Ishant.
"When I came in, Ishant helped me a lot. He told me what length to bowl with the new ball and then with the old ball. All of us share experiences with each other."
Sharma admitted India will have to play well to beat Ireland, who have six points from four matches and are also well-placed to make the quarter-finals, with the non-Test nation concluding their pool campaign against Pakistan in Adelaide on Sunday.
"They played good games earlier," said Sharma.
South Africa, Pakistan and the West Indies are also in the hunt for a last-eight place from Pool B.
Pakistan and South Africa have six points each from five games while the West Indies have four in five.
"Ireland have a chance to qualify. They have a good team," said Sharma. "We will have to play well to beat them, and we'll try to do it."
Squads and officials:
India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Akshar Patel, Mohit Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Stuart Binny
Ireland (from): William Porterfield (capt), Andrew Balbirnie, Peter Chase, Alex Cusack, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Andrew McBrine, John Mooney, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien, Max Sorensen, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson, Craig Young
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena (SRI) and Richard Kettleborough (ENG)
Tv umpire: Johan Cloete (RSA)
Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG)
Weather: 26 degree, partly cloudy
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