ABU DHABI: Robin Singh is a thinking coach. During the break, he took Shikhar Dhawan aside and explained the importance of putting value to one's wicket. Dhawan, a compulsive but attractive strokeplayer, had been throwing his wicket away to innocuous deliveries and needed just this kind of pep talk to showcase his talent.
The left-hander from Delhi, adjudged the `man of the match', made short work of the Ireland bowlers and crafted a comfortable victory for India `A' in the BSNL EurAsia Cup cricket tournament at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium here on Tuesday.
The eight-wicket win carried India `A' into the final to be played on May 5. The other finalist would be decided from the winner of the Pakistan `A'-Sri Lanka `A' match.
Dhawan concentrated on finishing the job entrusted to him and Robin's words kept reminding him of the significance of proper shot-selection. He backed himself to dominate the attack and some thrilling strokeplay showed him in excellent form with the team gaining from his sensible approach.
The flawless performance by Dhawan augured well for the team's preparation for the final. His drives stood out for the impeccable timing and the ease with which he picked the gaps confirmed the strokeplayer's calibre to adapt and improve. His 96-ball knock contained 13 fours.
India `A' was off to a flying start when Robin Uthappa (25 off 35 balls) and Dhawan scored without discomfort before the former played across. Skipper Venugopala Rao hit 33 off 44 balls with four fours and a six but perished in trying to force the pace. Ireland failed to make any more dents as Dhawan and S. Badrinath completed the task with a flourish.
Ireland ought to thank a complacent opposition for allowing things to drift in the middle overs after the top half had been packed off for a mere 82 runs. Shib Sunder Paul dealt the first blow when he broke through the defence of Jason Armstrong and then the hard-working Reetender Singh Sodhi surprised Conor Armstrong with his movement off the pitch.
The spinners also joined the act since the pitch proved amiable for their style to flourish. Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja induced a rash stroke from William Porterfield and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla picked the wickets of Gary Wilson and Thinus Fourie.
Ireland was placed in a hopeless situation but recovered through a sound partnership of 86 runs between John Mooney (41 off 61 balls with five fours) and Kevin O'Brien (36 off 66 balls with one four and two sixes). The sixes that O'Brien hit came off Chawla as the Irish despatched two good deliveries into the vacant stands.
The sixth-wicket partnership that O'Brien and Mooney forged saw the Indians loosen their grip over the proceedings and the breakthrough came from a superb ball by R. P. Singh, who beat Mooney by pace. The India `A' seamers returned to put the team back on track as Ireland lost the last five wickets for just 14 runs.
Paul grabbed the opportunity to justify the break that he earned by claiming three wickets.
He extracted pace and bounce and matched R.P Singh on a day when cricket remained dull with the exception of Dhawan.
The scores: Ireland: J. Molins b Paul 13, C. Armstrong b Sodhi 13, W. Porterfield c Chawla b Jadeja 16, G. Wilson c Paul b Chawla 17, T. Fourie b Chawla 10, J. Mooney lbw b R.P. Singh 41, K. O'Brien c Kaarthick b Paul 36, D. Simpson b R.P Singh 0, R. Whelan c Chawla b Paul 2, T. Britton (not out) 6, G. Kidd b R.P. Singh 0, Extras (b-4, lb-15, w-5, nb-4) 28, Total (all out in 43.3 overs) 182.
Fall of wickets: 1-26, 2-33, 3-70, 4-76, 5-82, 6-168, 7-170, 8-172, 9-174.
India `A' bowling: R.P. Singh 6.3-1-22-3, Paul 9-1-28-3, Sodhi 5-0-27-1, Chawla 8-0-39-2, Jadeja 8-1-16-1, Badrinath 5-0-19-0, Sharma 2-0-12-0.
India `A': R. Uthappa c Kidd b Whelan 25, S. Dhawan (not out) 91, Venugopala Rao c Kidd b Fourie 33, S. Badrinath (not out) 18, Extras (lb-2, nb-4, w-13) 19, Total (for two wkts in 34.1 overs) 186.
Fall of wickets: 1-55, 2-120.
Ireland bowling: Whelan 7-0-27-1, Mooney 3-0-21-0, O'Brien 5-0-25-0, Fourie 6-1-28-1, Kidd 3-0-26-0, Simpson 6-0-27-0, Britton 4.1-0-30-0.