ICC World Cup: Dhoni's strategy to bring in slower bowlers early was vital

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s strategy to bring in slower bowlers after the pacers went for runs early on played a key role in restricting Ireland to 259 at Seddon Park

Ashwin FerroHamilton: Some subtle but effective bowling changes from skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni followed by a fine century by opener Shikhar Dhawan ensured India cruised to an eight-wicket win chasing down Ireland’s 259 with 79 balls remaining in their World Cup Group ‘B’ match at Seddon Park here yesterday. It turned out to be a perfect team effort for the defending champions thanks to some brilliant fielding too.

For the first time in this tournament, Dhoni’s pace trio of Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Mohit Sharma failed to deliver the goods in the initial overs on a slow Seddon Park surface as Ireland openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling piled on 89 runs within the first 15 overs. But a quick-thinking Dhoni immediately changed the pace and brought on his slower bowlers Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. The Irishmen fell for this guile and were never really able to getaway thereafter. Ireland seemed to be in a good position again at 206 for three with over 10 overs remaining, but again Dhoni’s slower bowlers, this time Suresh Raina, came to the rescue with his off-spin. He finished with 1-40 off a full quota of 10 overs.

India skipper MS Dhoni
India skipper MS Dhoni

Dhoni said he spotted the change in pace of the wicket and brought on his slower bowlers in the ninth over. “I felt from behind (the stumps) that there will be assistance for the slower bowlers because the ball just gripped the surface and there was a bit of bounce too. If it was a really crucial game, I would have brought the spinners on in the fourth over itself,” said Dhoni at the post-match press conference.

Suresh Raina celebrates the wicket of Ed Joyce at Seddon Park yesterday. The off-spinner finished with 1-40 in 10 overs. PIC/Getty Images
Suresh Raina celebrates the wicket of Ed Joyce at Seddon Park yesterday. The off-spinner finished with 1-40 in 10 overs. PIC/Getty Images

Excellent fielding
India were on top in the fielding department too. Shami first took a fine running catch at short fine leg to dismiss No 5 batter Andy Balbirnie, who was going well on a run-a-ball 24. Ajinkya Rahane then repeated the running-catch-act at the same position to dismiss Gary Wilson (6). Porterfield (67) and Niall O’Brien (75-ball 75) were the big scorers for the Irish. Virat Kohli then caught Stuart Thompson backing up too far out from the non-striker’s end and threw down his stumps from square of the wicket catching him out of his crease.

Dhoni hailed his team’s fitness for their improvement in fielding. “These guys are quite fit and most of them are agile on the field too. You may be fit, but you may not be quick. But if you see the XI that we played, almost all are very good fielders,” said Dhoni.

In reply, India openers Rohit Sharma (64) and Shikhar Dhawan continued their fine run against a seemingly toothless Irish pace attack with the latter taking advantage of two dropped catches (a tough caught & bowled attempt by John Mooney when he was on five and a diving spill by Porterfield at backward point when he was on 10) to score his second century of the tournament.

Dhoni hailed Dhawan’s persistence especially, after his poor show in the Tests and tri-series Down Under: “It’s important to back players and though he (Dhawan) had a tough series, we always believed in him. But the final step needs to be taken by the individual, and he prepared well for this. He’s not happy with a 50, he knows the team needs him to score big runs and he is doing that.”

Ireland captain Porterfield also hailed India’s all-round show. “India have great strength in their batting… they’ve got lads bowling in the mid 140s (kmph)… and they looked pretty athletic in the field too today,” said Porterfield.

W Porterfield c Yadav
b M Sharma 67
P Stirling     c Rahane b Ashwin 42
E Joyce b Raina 2
N O’Brien c Yadav
b Mohammed Shami 75
A Balbirnie c Mohammed Shami b Ashwin 24
K O’Brien c Dhoni
b Mohammed Shami 1
G Wilson c Rahane b Jadeja 6
R Thompson run out (Kohli) 2
J Mooney not out 12
G Dockrell c Dhoni b Yadav 6
A Cusack c Yadav
b Mohammed Shami 11    
Extras (lb 2, w 9) 11    
Total (all out; 49 overs) 259
Fall of wickets 1-89, 2-92, 3-145, 4-206, 5-208, 6-222, 7-226, 8-227, 9-238

U Yadav 4-0-34-1
Mohammed Shami 9-0-41-3
M Sharma 6-0-38-1
R Jadeja 7-0-45-1
R Ashwin    10-1-38-2
S Raina 10-0-40-1
R Sharma 3-0-21-0

R Sharma b Thompson 64
S Dhawan c Porterfield
b Thompson 100
V Kohli not out 44
A Rahane not out 33
Extras (b 4, lb 2, w 13) 19
Total (2 wickets; 36.5 overs) 260    
Fall of wickets 1-174, 2-190

J Mooney 6-0-44-0
A Cusack 8-0-43-0
S Thompson 6-0-45-2
G Dockrell 5-0-44-0
P Stirling     5-0-36-0
K O’Brien 6.5-0-42-0

Turning point
AT the end of the 39th over, Ireland were 206 for 3, looking set for a score close to 300 with Kevin O’Brien still to follow. Ravichandran Ashwin on the final ball of his spell got Andrew Balbirnie to top-edge a shot to Mohammed Shami. The breakthrough opened the floodgates and Ireland lost their last seven wickets for just 53 runs to be bowled out for 259 in 49 overs.

Star of the match
While Shikhar Dhawan will be lauded for his second World Cup century, it was the offie from Tamil Nadu who brought India back into the game with some really tight bowling. Ravichandran Ashwin got turn and bounce from the Seddon Park track which the Irish batsmen found difficult to score off. He also picked up wickets of Paul Sterling and Andrew Balbirnie to finish with impressive figures of 10-1-38-2 on a small New Zealand ground.

Ravichandran Ashwin

Figure trigger
MS Dhoni becomes India’s most successful captain in World Cup by leading the defending champions to their 12th win in 14 matches under his leadership, overtaking Kapil Dev’s 11

Number of consecutive World Cup wins India has registered under MS Dhoni’s captaincy, surpassing Sourav Ganguly’s eight in 2003

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