ICC World Cup: Raina's ton helps India maintain unbeaten record

Dhoni hails No 5 batsman Raina’s crucial 110 under pressure as duo’s 196-run stand ensures India beat Zimbabwe with eight balls to spare to stay unbeaten in league stage

Auckland: Suresh Raina scored his maiden World Cup century as India beat Zimbabwe by six wickets in their last World Cup Group ‘B’ match at Eden Park here on Saturday to enjoy a six-out-of-six matches winning streak in the league phase.

Skipper MS Dhoni pulls Zimbabwe’s Tinashe Panyangara over backward square leg to win the last World Cup 2014 Group game for India at Eden Park, Auckland on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images 

Raina (110 not out off 104 balls, 9x4s, 4x6s) and India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (76-ball 85 not out, 8x4s, 2x6s) stitched up a 196-run stand to ensure the defending champions overcame a top-order collapse — India were 4-92 at one stage chasing Zimbabwe’s 287 all out off 48.5 overs -- to reach the target quite comfortably in the end with eight balls to spare.

Raina however, should have been back in the pavilion even before his half century had it not been for Hamilton Masakadza dropping him at short fine leg after he had top-edged a sweep off Sikander Raza when on 47. The left-hander ensured skipper Brendan Taylor would rue the missed opportunity in his last game for Zimbabwe before he heads to Nottingham to become a Kolpak player. “We’ve dropped way too many catches in this tournament, probably more than any other team and that has been disappointing,” Taylor, who scored a fine century (110-ball 138, 15x4s, 5x6s) batting first, said at the post-match press conference.

Dhoni meanwhile, was all praise for his Chennai Super Kings teammate Raina. “It’s good to get a tough game in your last league encounter where your batsmen and bowlers are tested. The knock by Raina was very crucial coming at No 5 because more often than not you don’t get such an opportunity (to bat for long) at that number. You get in to bat maybe after the 38th or 39th over if your top order is batting well and you can only slog it out then, so you play the big shot, you get out, don’t score too many runs, and when you get into the knockout stages you want to have runs under your belt,” said Dhoni, who stylishly pulled pacer Tinashe Panyangara for a six backward of square to end what seemed to be turning out to be a close contest.

Dhoni said Raina also helped take some of the pressure off him at the other end. “You can’t really miss out the fact that Raina batted so well at the other end and eased up the pressure from me, and he has done it quite a few times. We have also run well between the wickets,” said Dhoni.

Suresh Raina in full flow against Zimbabwe at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday. Pic/AFP

Quicksilver Raina
Raina the fielder also ticked the right boxes in his captain’s book. “Raina is always running around during the fielding and that keeps him warm and charged up in these conditions, but he also backs me up and the others when the ball is thrown at us. These are small things that tend to get overlooked but can prove to be crucial in games in which big runs are scored or need to be chased. So, Raina does the small things well too,” said Dhoni.

Turning point
Hamilton Masakadza will surely have nightmares of the moment he dropped Suresh Raina, a laps that could have cost India the match. India had just gone past 150 and the required rate was over nine an over when Raina, batting on 47, top-edged a sweep off the bowling of Sikandar Raza. Masakadza at short-fine leg made a complete hash of the catch and enabled Raina to not only get his fifth ODI ton, but also get India over the line. 

Star of the match

Zimbabwe skipper Brendan Taylor plays a shot en route his 110-ball 138 against India at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images

Everyone would want a fairytale ending to their career. For most part of the game, Brendan Taylor was on the right track to fulfill that dream. Though he ended up on the losing side, he made a majestic 138 off just 110 balls to take his side from a precarious 33 for 3 to a competitive 287. Though his bowlers let him down towards the end, the effort from one of Zimbabwe cricket’s most loyal servants was one to remember. 

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