Yuvraj delivers yet again with an all-round performance
On a typically sluggish Kotla wicket, Yuvraj Singh sizzled with controlled aggression. The left-hander is making all the right moves.
The straightness of his willow, his ability to pick the length in a jiffy, and his composure in a situation of duress carried India to a five-wicket win over the Netherlands at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground here on Wednesday.
Man-of-the-Match Yuvraj's unbeaten 51 and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's steadying hand followed a worrying Indian slump to 139 for five; the host was chasing 190.
In fact, India made heavy weather of a regulation pursuit under the lights. Left-arm spinner Pieter Seelaar, steady at best, made serious inroads and the sharp Dutch fielding created an element of pressure.
With seven points from four matches, India is virtually assured of making it to the last eight stage of the ICC World Cup.
100th ODI scalp
Yuvraj struck twice with his left-arm spin earlier in the day; this included his 100th ODI scalp. He then pulled his weight with the bat while notching up his third successive half-century of the competition. The southpaw punched Seelaar through wide mid-off, creamed seamer Ryan ten Doeschate through point and bludgeoned paceman Bradley Kruger down the ground.
Openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar went for shots early on when the ball was harder; there was a little more pace for the batsmen to harness.
Tendulkar twice cover-drove ten Doeschate and then whipped the bowler over mid-on. The maestro grabbed another slice of history in a career of miles and milestones by becoming the first batsman to reach 2000 runs in the World Cup.
Sehwag began like a runaway train, pulling paceman Mudassar Bukhari into the stands and then easing Seelaar over the extra-cover ropes. It was spectacular stuff.
Creating room for the slice, Sehwag was held at point off Seelaar; the openers had blasted 69 off only 7.3 overs. Then, Tendulkar was well caught at long-off by Bradley Kruger off the persistent Seelaar.
Yusuf Pathan, promoted in the order to gain some batting practice, did not last long. Seelaar shortened his length and a surprised Yusuf knocked it back. From nowhere, the Netherlands had a sniff.
India slipped into further trouble. Virat Kohli was done in by the one that came back from seamer Peter Borren. And Gambhir, light on his feet against the spinners, was a shade unlucky as a delivery on the leg-stump from Bukhari deflected off his pad onto the stumps.
Earlier, the Indian attack came back after struggling early on but lost some ground in the end overs. The Netherlands had opted to bat.
There was a marginal improvement in the side's fielding. There was greater urgency in the circle. The throws, quicker and more threatening, created two run-outs where Kohli and Piyush Chawla enacted central roles.
The Dutch innings lost its way after openers Eric Szwarczynski and Wesley Barresi batted with determination and a measure of fluency.
Szwarczynski (28) was consumed by a googly from leg-spinner Chawla. Soon, Barresi (26) was leg-before to a delivery that straightened from Yuvraj Singh.
An innovative Tom Cooper (29) and ten Doeschate were building a partnership when the latter, jumping out but finding the ball turning a tad away from him, holed out in the deep off Yuvraj.
Only some lusty hitting by skipper Peter Borren (38) and Bukhari (21) saved the Dutch from a collapse. Borren took a heavy toll of Chawla, picking the wrong 'un and swatting the bowler for two leg-side sixes. The absence of a potent leg-spinner made Chawla rather predictable.
The think-tank retained Chawla ahead of R. Ashwin. While giving a fair run to a leg-spinner — down on confidence — has its merits, India missed a gilt-edged chance to try out off-spinner Ashwin.
Ashish Nehra, presented with a chance to prove his fitness in a match situation, sent down only one over with the new ball.
Dhoni brought back Nehra mid-way through the innings and the left-arm paceman did bowl with some verve on an unresponsive pitch. Nehra also found the edge of Cooper's blade with a delivery that angled away from over-the-wicket.
Zaheer operated with typical control later in the innings. A left-arm pace-man's right shoulder opens up more when bowling from over-the-wicket and precision is often a casualty. However, Zaheer's accuracy from this angle highlighted the quality of his bowling.
Harbhajan Singh was frugal with his bowling but India expects its spin spearhead to strike.
The Netherlands: E. Szwarczynski b Chawla 28 ( 42b, 4x4), W. Barresi lbw b Yuvraj 26 ( 58b, 2x4), T. Cooper c Dhoni b Nehra 29 ( 47b, 2x4), R. ten Doeschate c Zaheer b Yuvraj 11 ( 28b, 1x4), A. Kervezee c Harbhajan b Chawla 11 ( 23b, 1x4), B. Zuiderent lbw b Zaheer 0 ( 6b), T. de Grooth (run out) 5 ( 11b), P. Borren c Nehra b Zaheer 38 ( 36b, 3x4, 2x6), B. Kruger (run out) 8 ( 12b, 1x4), M. Bukhari b Zaheer 21 ( 18b, 1x4, 2x6), P. Seelaar (not out) 0 ( 0b); Extras (b-6, lb-3, nb-1, w-2): 12; Total (in 46.4 overs): 189.
Fall of wickets: 1-56 (Szwarczynski), 2-64 (Barresi), 3-99 (ten Doeschate), 4-100 (Cooper), 5-101 (Zuiderent), 6-108 (de Grooth), 7-127 (Kervezee), 8-151 (Kruger), 9-189 (Borren).
India bowling: Zaheer 6.4-0-20-3, Nehra 5-1-22-1, Yusuf 6-1-17-0, Harbhajan 10-0-31-0, Chawla 10-0-47-2, Yuvraj 9-1-43-2.
India: V. Sehwag c Kervezee b Seelaar 39 (26b, 5x4, 2x6), S. Tendulkar c Kruger b Seelaar 27 (22b, 6x4), Yusuf c & b Seelaar 11 (10b, 1x4, 1x6), G. Gambhir b Bukhari 28 (28b, 3x4), V. Kohli b Borren 12 (20b, 2x4), Yuvraj (not out) 51 (73b, 7x4), M.S. Dhoni (not out) 19 (40b, 2x4); Extras (w-4): 4; Total (for five wkts. in 36.3 overs): 191.
Fall of wickets: 1-69 (Sehwag), 2-80 (Tendulkar), 3-82 (Yusuf), 4-99 (Kohli), 5-139 (Gambhir).
The Netherlands bowling: Bukhari 6-1-33-1, ten Doeschate 7-0-38-0, Seelaar 10-1-53-3, Borren 8-0-33-1, Cooper 2-0-11-0, Kruger 3.3-0-23-0.
Man-of-the-match: Yuvraj Singh (India) .