World Cup

India aims for six out of six

Rohit Sharma recorded his highest score of the tournament (64) against Ireland and will be keen to better it against Zimbabwe on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: Ross Setford

For all its history, there is no sense of grandeur about Eden Park.

It’s a most unusual stadium — cricket and rugby equal tenants — sitting unpretentiously in a clearing downhill from Mount Eden. The ground itself is a long rectangle with rounded corners; the straight boundaries are miniature and behind the hoardings a few stands poke out at odd angles.

India was here last year, when it tied a one-dayer with New Zealand and a fortnight later lost a thrilling Test match by 40 runs. Nine of the 11 players that took the field against Ireland featured in the tied match; as such they will be familiar with the queer dimensions of the place.

Two matches have been played at Eden Park in this World Cup, with the highest total in four innings a measly 222. It is a brand new pitch, though, that has been dropped in for India’s meeting with Zimbabwe here on Saturday.

Blair Christiansen, the Turf Manager (as they like to be known here), believes there will be runs on what should be a flat, consistent surface.

It has been a week since India secured qualification for the next stage; it feels like an age. There is little to do now, except to make sure that the machine continues to run without hiccough. As lopsided as the win over Ireland was, India will have learnt a good deal from the game.

On a flat pitch and with no sign of lateral movement, its fast bowlers struggled in the early overs as the Irish batsmen pulled and drove with ease. Mohammed Shami coped with it, eventually finishing with three wickets to swell his tally to 12 for the tournament; Umesh Yadav did not.

On came the spinners — four of them — and the brakes were swiftly applied. M.S. Dhoni will have been delighted with the work of Suresh Raina, who bowled 10 overs and conceded only 40 runs. Later on in the competition — in truth, the end is a maximum of three knock-out matches away — India will need its other spinners to support R. Ashwin.

Good test

Hamilton was thus a good test, for India’s bowlers had hitherto not been required to work in the final overs.

There will be much relief in the camp over Shikhar Dhawan’s century at Seddon Park. Towards the end, he was toying with the bowling, hitting the left-arm spin of George Dockrell into the stands with embarrassing ease.

Rohit Sharma, meanwhile, recorded his best score of the tournament. Ravindra Jadeja was set for a promotion and all padded up to bat, but Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane completed the task emphatically before him. Zimbabwe, India hopes, will offer a similar workout and an opportunity to sharpen skills.

For the southern Africans, this game is a free shy at the coconut, one last day under the lights before a return to the grim realities of home. Zimbabwe has lost four of its five matches and is out of the World Cup.

This game is hugely significant for Brendan Taylor, who will bid Zimbabwe farewell — at least temporarily — on Saturday. His departure to Nottinghamshire as Kolpak player will hurt his country, although he believes they will recover. “I think there’s enough depth there at the moment. We’ve certainly got some experienced players, we’ve got some young and talented players coming through. I’m not too worried about maybe leaving a hole there,” he said on Friday.

Sean Williams has been one of the few bright spots, making 289 runs so far and taking Zimbabwe to the brink of victory against Ireland. The seamer Tendai Chatara has stood out with 10 wickets at 28.3 but it is the rest of the bowling that is a worry.

India will come with the intention of plundering a large number of runs and, though there is nothing at stake, claiming a sixth win in six.

Teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Stuart Binny, Ambati Rayudu.

Zimbabwe: Brendan Taylor (captain), Elton Chigumbura, Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza, Prosper Utseya, Tinashe Panyangara, Tawanda Mupariwa, Solomon Mire, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Hamilton Maskadza, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Craig Ervine, Tandai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Regis Chakabva.

Match Starts: 6: 30 (IST)

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 12:12:05 AM |

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