On Saturday night, Auckland looked like Delhi, Mumbai or Mohali with 30,000 Indian fans rooting for India in the 39th match of CWC 2015. After Zimbabwe had scored 287, India chased down their highest target in World Cup matches to win by six wickets. After 4 wickets had fallen, a power-packed partnership between Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni was instrumental in India making a seamless progress in the World Cup. The victory, however, didn’t come easily as Brendon Taylor nearly stole the honors from India with his brilliant efforts, both as batsman and as captain. For a change, Dhoni won the toss and sent Zimbabwe in. The decision could have been prompted by India’s quest for claiming 60 opposition wickets in 6 matches. For a while, it seemed that India had miscalculated, despite taking three early wickets for 33 runs on the scoreboard. But Brendan Taylor had altogether different intentions as his bat began to sing and its tune destroyed Indian bowlers. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were belted mercilessly to concede 146 runs in their combined 20 overs. Taylor created two partnerships to scare India; first with Sean Williams for 93 runs and second of 99 with Craig Ervine that proved more damaging. In between, he scored his farewell century in a blast. Taylor’s departure hastened Zimbabwe’s end but a total of 287 could not have been counted as low. India began miserably losing both openers by 7th over and 21/2 looked ominous. Kohli and Rahane tried to resurrect the innings but Rahane also departed at 71 after adding 50 and when Kohli was bowed by Sikandar Raza, India stared at defeat with 92/4 in the 23rd over. But Raina and Dhoni played memorably to steer India to their sixth victory out of six league matches and also made it as the 10th straight World Cup win.
After Dhoni winning the toss and Zimbabwe batting first, it looked like an easy day for India at Auckland’s Eden Park in the beginning. In over nos. 4th, 5th and 11th, Zimbabwe lost three wickets to Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami and Mohit Sharma. 33/3 at a run-rate of 3 could only be regarded as poor start. But Brendon Taylor had walked in after the fall of Chamu Chibhabha’s wicket. In the face of such miserable start, Taylor took his time and couldn’t get off the mark until he had faced the 10th ball. At the end of 10 overs; Zimbabwe had only made 27/2. After Solomon Mire got out at 33 in 11th over, Taylor was joined by Sean William. Zimbabwe were poorly placed even at the end of 20 overs as the score of 64/3 would testify.
From 21st over onwards, runs began to flow. The score jumped to 125 in the 29th over, when Williams got out after reaching his 50. Taylor had also completed his 50 and he had already shed his inhibitions. Craig Ervine was the next man in and with him, Taylor went full throttle. The two batsmen picked up Ashwin and Jadeja for a particularly harsh treatment. In the 39th over, Taylor lofted Mohammad Shami for a six and completed his century. In the process, he became the only Zimbabwean to score back-to-back hundreds in a World Cup. Taylor finally departed after making a 110-ball 138 with 15 fours and 5 sixes. But he had set the tone for later order batsmen, who carried the team-score to 287/10 in 49th over.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma came out to begin India’s 288-run chase. Though Rohit scored two boundaries in the first over, he looked far from confident. Dhawan looked impatient to get off the mark but couldn’t succeed until he despatched the 12th ball to the boundary. India lost both Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan to poor strokes in the 7th over. Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane tried to repair the early damage in the next 10 overs but after adding 50 together, Rahane ran himself out due to a poor judgment. Suresh Raina and Kohli kept going for a while but after they added 21 runs together, Kohli was bowled round his legs by Sikandar Raza. 92/4 in the 23rd over was too far away from the target. But India had their best middle-order batsmen at the crease. Raina and Dhoni took their time and avoided anything risky. Runs were still coming in trickles. In the 30th over, Raina lofted Sean Williams for two consecutive sixes but India still needed 161 runs from 20 overs. Dhoni played sensibly and curbed his natural instincts. When on 47, Raina escaped a chance, when Hamilton Masakadza dropped him. It could well have been a turning point but Raina survived to take his score to the three-figure mark. With skipper Dhoni also chipping in with ones, twos and an occasional boundary, India steadily moved towards the target. Despite looking less than confident, it was Raina, who released India by taking a bold approach. Dhoni also opened out even as Raina reached his fifth ODI hundred. Without taking risks, Raina and Dhoni took India to victory in the 49th over, when Dhoni pulled a ball into the stands for a six.
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