Yuvraj Singh’s all-round performance set up India’s 80-run victory over West Indies in the final World Cup Group B match on Sunday.
Chasing 269 for victory, opener Devon Smith’s cultured 81 kept West Indies in the hunt but the two-time champions lost their last eight wickets for 34 runs to collapse for 188 in 43 overs.
The result set up a mouth-watering quarterfinal showdown between co-hosts India and four times champions Australia in Ahmedabad while Indies take on Group A winners Pakistan in Dhaka.
“I knew it was very important for the team to get the wicket [of Smith] and it was very important for the team to defend a decent total which we did today as a bowling unit and I’m sure we are going to go into the quarterfinals upbeat and confident,” said Zaheer Khan, who picked up 3-26.
“I am really looking forward to it [meeting Australia].”
Earlier, Yuvraj (113) featured in a 122-run third wicket partnership with Virat Kohli (59) to prop up India after captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had opted to bat first.
Drafted in the squad to allow spearhead Kemar Roach some rest, Ravi Rampaul (5-51) made a memorable World Cup debut against the country of his origin and it was largely due to his career-best haul that India once again failed to bat their full quota and folded for 268 in 49.1 overs.
With the team management deciding to rest Virender Sehwag, who is battling a knee problem, Gautam Gambhir (22) partnered Sachin Tendulkar (2) at the top but both were back in the hut inside nine overs.
Much to the disappointment of the crowd who had packed into the MA Chidambaram Stadium hoping to watch him score his 100th international century, Tendulkar nicked Rampaul’s sixth delivery and walked off the ground even though he was adjudged not out.
Rampaul cut short Gambhir’s fluent cameo too but Yuvraj joined Kohli in the middle to stitch together a steady partnership that was the bedrock of the Indian innings.
West Indies skipper Darren Sammy helped Yuvraj’s cause, dropping him twice in successive overs and the batsman, despite his obvious struggle to cope with the heat and humidity, went on to smash his 13th century in one-day internationals.
The Indian tail, however, did not wag and the co-hosts folded with five balls left in their innings.
Smith anchored West Indies’ chase and losing Kirk Edwards or Darren Bravo did not have much of an effect on him as he batted with consummate ease.
Zaheer bowled him in the 31st over to earn a major breakthrough and the pressure intensified with the exit of Kieron Pollard, who was uncertain to bat having sustained a finger injury that forced him to walk off the ground during the Indian innings.
Yuvraj claimed 2-18 to cap a satisfying outing both with the bat and ball. – Reuters
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