Team India may have beaten Zimbabwe by six wickets in their final league match at Auckland to finish off their group stage games, with six wins in as many matches. Although the victory margin may seem comprehensive, the fact is that Zimbabwe ran India close for most part of the game. Their batting was sublime for a majority of their innings, and even their bowlers stood up to cause India a scare. It was only a fine partnership by Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni that bailed India out of trouble. India should be pleased not only with the win, but also with the fact that they were run close going into the knockouts.
Two big plusses for India in the match were the return of form of skipper Dhoni, and the fact that Raina played a big knock under pressure, something which he hasn’t been able to do in a while since the Indian top order has been performing so well. Raina kicked off the series with a smashing half-century against Pakistan at Adelaide. But, on that occasion, the platform was set for him. At Auckland, Zimbabwe bowlers were on top, and Raina had to settle in to play a long innings. It isn’t something he is renowned for, and so he should be extremely pleased to have taken India home.
As for the Indian skipper, this was an extremely significant innings for him. Before this, his only innings of note was the unbeaten 45 against West Indies. But, that was a shortened chase. On this occasion, he had a lot of runs to get. Like Raina, Dhoni too hadn’t made a big score in a while. In fact, he was struggling even during the knock against West Indies that took India to victory. The team desperately needed their skipper to stand up for them, and Dhoni did the same. His occupation of the crease was most important for India, and once he got his eye in, things eased out.
The match did open up some worries for India ahead of their quarter-final clash against Bangladesh on the 19th of this month. Ravindra Jadeja, who is the only batsman to not have made a decent contribution for India, failed to get a bat. He also struggled with the ball. His lack of rhythm will be a concerning factor for India in case his services are needed in case of a crisis. Further, Rohit Sharma had another failure at the top of the order. He has two half-centuries to his name, but has disappointed with poor strokes in most other games. It remains to be seen how the pasting handed out to Ravichandran Ashwin affects him.
For Zimbabwe, the match was also about handing out a nice farewell to their stand-in skipper Brendan Taylor. The man himself stood up and played mesmerising innings, which caught the Indians off-guard. However, there has been a pattern to Zimbabwe’s performance in each game, which repeated itself at Auckland. They have allowed the opposition to come back after being dominant. Thus, except for Taylor and Sean Williams most others failed with the bat. Then, after claiming early wickets, they lost momentum with the bat, and failed to hand out a Taylor-made farewell to Brendan.
--By A Cricket Analyst