S. Ram Mahesh

Ganguly and Tendulkar too join the party as India crosses the 400-run mark

Port of Spain: Virender Sehwag scored his first century in nearly two years before Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar blitzed the Bermuda attack as India crossed 400 for the first time in one-day cricket.

Needing a command performance, India finished with 413 for five from 50 overs the highest score in World Cup history in its Group B match at the Queen's Park Oval here on Monday.

Curiously, Bermuda was the first to sparkle, after winning the toss. The first ball of the second over Malachi Jones's first in the World Cup was a peach of a delivery.

It descended appropriately and offered to move away. Robin Uthappa thrust his hands at it; his weight, centred on the back foot, didn't comply.

The edge seemed certain to elude Dwayne Leverock crouching at a wide first slip. But, he persuaded his considerable body sideways. One hand stretched out. As he fell to the ground, Leverock realised the ball had stuck. He rolled to his feet with surprising alacrity and chugged towards square-leg.

Realising, however, that Malachi had occupied that part of the stage, Leverock braked to a grinding stop and chugged the other way. For a touch of vaudeville, he blew giant, squelching kisses to the spectators.

Malachi, as chronicled, had sprinted to the other side of the ground before he was finally tackled to the ground. He rose, tears streaming down his cheeks. Irving Romaine, the captain, put a paternal arm around the 17-year-old. Cricket, the great leveller, extracted its pound of flesh from Malachi. He barely kept the next ball on the playing strip. Sehwag was thus given a sighter. The past few months have been especially torturous for the 28-year-old; he would have appreciated the small mercy of a sighter.

Sehwag was further helped by the fact that none of the Bermuda bowlers brought the ball back into him. He took advantage, racing to his half-century in 43 balls. In it were interspersed all manners of cuts, slices, and drives, each burning the off-side like a hot brand.

He began by shearing his bat across the flight of Malachi, who was to go for 43 runs from 4.5 overs in his first spell after that glorious beginning.

Sehwag gained in confidence, evident in his footwork, which grew increasingly decisive. Never one for balletic strides, Sehwag was nonetheless propping far enough forward to drive; consequently, he could push off the front foot to get in position for the cut. One cut off Malachi was particularly withering.

Ganguly scratched around, playing out a Janeiro Tucker maiden as Sehwag fidgeted at the non-striker's end. But, the introduction of Leverock aided the left-hander's cause.

Gorgeous strokes

Ganguly helped himself to two sixes: gorgeous golf swings, if not in technique, then in spirit. Sehwag drop-kicked Hurdle over square-leg for six to reach 96. A glide to third-man brought one, a scatty flap over cover drew two.

Things turned anti-climactic as Sehwag ran a leg-bye, and grinned at the umpire. A few nervous moments later, Sehwag squeezed one out to third-man to reach his first ODI century since April 2005.

By the time he departed for an 87-ball 114, Sehwag had put on 202 with Ganguly.

Yuvraj, fortunate to win a close call for a stumping, detonated. Such was the left-hander's form, he teed off from the crease and cleared the boundary with ease. Sachin Tendulkar started with dinks and laps, but soon delved into his box of power tools. The 122-run partnership between Yuvraj and Tendulkar took just 10.2 overs.

Fittingly, a Tendulkar six brought up the 400. Dravid ended the innings with another six. In all, 18 sixes were hit.

Earlier, Anil Kumble replaced Harbhajan Singh in the eleven from the match against Bangladesh.

SCOREBOARD

India: R. Uthappa c Leverock b Jones 3, S. Ganguly st. Minors b Borden 89, V. Sehwag c Jones b Hurdle 114, M. Dhoni c Tucker b Borden 29, Yuvraj c Jones b Leverock 83, S. Tendulkar (not out) 57, R. Dravid (not out) 7; Extras (lb-7, w-17, nb-7) 31; Total (for five wkts. in 50 overs) 413.

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-205, 3-238, 4-269, 5-391.

Bermuda bowling: Hurdle 10-0-53-1, Jones 7-0-74-1, Tucker 9-1-67-0, Hemp 2-0-32-0, Leverock 10-0-96-1, Borden 5-0-30-2, Cann 7-0-54-0.

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