Dravid guides India to six-wicket win
India stuttered in pursuit of 179 in their match against West Indies but eventually Rahul Dravid kept a cool head and steered his team to a six-wicket win with 14 overs to spare at Dambulla. West Indies, after choosing to bat, made a complete mess of things, and ended up with 178, a total that briefly challenged India, but eventually proved to be inadequate.
Bennett King, the West Indian coach, must be tearing his hair out at the performance of his batsmen. This depleted, second-string line-up, has given fans little room for hope. Their ineptness with the bat, followed up by an erratic performance in the field ensured that India picked up their first win in this tournament, albeit after a few scares, and the customary crisis knock from Dravid.
Virender Sehwag failed once more, being caught down the leg side with just 3 on the board. Suresh Raina, who made a first-ball duck on his debut against Sri Lanka yesterday, was given the opportunity to make amends, and sent in to bat at No. 3. He began nervously, surviving a loud shout for lbw first up, and then being dropped at cover point by Ricardo Powell, who appeared to be unsighted by the lights.
After those nervy moments Raina settled down well and made the most of the loose deliveries that were served up to him. Daren Powell was guilty of spearing the ball into the pads and Raina repeatedly picked him off over midwicket with wristy flicks.
Kaif, who was quietly accumulating runs, made 24 before going after a wide one from Tino Best to Sylvester Joseph in the slips cordon (68 for 2). Raina was dropped one more time - by Denesh Ramdin off Best - but his luck soon ran out. After scoring 35, with the help of six boundaries, he cut a short one straight to Xavier Marshall at cover point.
Dravid was once again called on to steady the ship after India stuttered somewhat at 82 for 3. He began with stoic defense, knowing full well that Shivnarine Chanderpaul would have to turn to his part-time bowlers sooner or later. This did not stop him from putting away the bad balls though. Best suffered badly - first a coruscating cut shot sent the ball searing across the turf to the cover fence, then an uppercut flew to the third-man fence, and finally an orthodox cover drive pierced the infield. Y
uvraj Singh, as keen on spending time at the wicket as scoring runs, partnered Dravid for 61 runs, and looked well set when he played all round a quick one from Jermaine Lawson and was bowled (143 for 4). In the end, though, the target was not large enough to create serious problems, and Dravid (52 not out) was able to guide his team home.
West Indies, though, had no batsmen to steer their innings. Narsingh Deonarine gave the batting some semblance of respectability, sticking around for 91 balls to score 41, but even that was a most apologetic effort. He declined to play attacking shots for the best part of his stay at the crease, not even looking to score, and instead blocked, padded up or left the ball alone.
The padding-up malaise set in early in the day. Runako Morton and Xavier Marshall, charged with opening the innings, were all at sea, playing and missing constantly against the new ball. Strangely both batsmen used their pads as a first line of defense and this proved risky, and unsurprisingly wickets began to fall at regular intervals.
Xavier Marshall (26) managed to sort out his problem of getting hit on the pad, and clipped a couple of boundaries beautifully through midwicket, putting some runs on the scoreboard, before Harbhajan Singh sent down a straight one that kissed the outside edge and landed in Dravid's lap at slip (32 for 3).
Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Deonarine were left to consolidate, and they did so for a time. Raina picked up his first international wicket when Chanderpwaul swept at and missed one that did not turn (84 for 4). After Chanderpaul was dismissed there was little substance in the batting, and only some lusty hitting pushed the score to 178.
All along Deonarine (41) plugged away, holding one end up until the time came when he had to push the scoring rate. He was a touch unlucky to be given out lbw, sweeping and missing against Sehwag. The ball appeared to pitch marginally outside leg stump, but Daryl Harper upheld the appeal (140 for 7).
Best walked out at No. 9 and showed some of his more established counterparts how to get the job done. A sizzling pull and effortless lofted on-drive off Pathan raced to the fence, giving West Indies some much-needed momentum at the end of the innings. They need more than that, however, if they are to challenge teams in this series.
Runako Morton lbw b Pathan 1 (1 for 1)
Trapped in front by an indipper
Sylvester Joseph run out (Raina/Dhoni) 3 (22 for 2)
Well short of his crease attempting a non-existant second run
Marshall c Dravid b Harbhajan 26 (32 for 3)
Edged a straight one to slip
Shivnarine Chanderpaul lbw b Raina 22 (84 for 4)
Swept and missed a straight one
Ricardo Powell b Sehwag 1 (85 for 5)
Bowled through the gate
Dwayne Smith c Dhoni b Harbhajan 20 (109 for 6)
Tickled a straight one to the keeper.
Narsingh Deonarine lbw b Sehwag 41 (140 for 7)
Given out sweeping one that pitched just outside leg
Denesh Ramdin b Nehra 24 (172 for 8)
Bowled trying to make room and drive inside out
Darren Powell b Nehra 0 (172 for 9)
Lost his off stump poking far from the ball
Tino Best c Raina b Khan 24 (178 for 10)
Slogged one to long-on
Virender Sehwag c Ramdin b Lawson 2 (3 for 1)
Glanced one down leg
Mohammad Kaif c Joseph b Best 24 (68 for 2)
Guided a short ball to slip
Suresh Raina c Marshall b Smith 35 (82 for 3)
Punched a ball to point
Yuvraj Singh b Lawson 28 (143 for 4)
Played round a full, quick delivery.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo