ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

India v Australia, 2nd quarter-final, World Cup 2011, Ahmedabad

India's bowling rises to the challenge

With Zaheer Khan on top form, R Ashwin proving a vital addition, Yuvraj Singh flighting the ball more and Harbhajan Singh bowling more aggressively, India's bowling attack has improved to the extent Ricky Ponting compared it with Pakistan's

Sambit Bal at Motera

March 24, 2011

Comments: 58 | Text size: A | A

Zaheer Khan got Michael Hussey cheaply, India v Australia, 2nd quarter-final, Ahmedabad, World Cup 2011, March 24, 2011
Zaheer Khan once again provided a wicket when it was needed, doing in Michael Hussey with a slower ball © Getty Images

Yuvraj Singh is turning this World Cup into his own, but India chose the right match to turn in their most wholesome performance of the tournament so far. Apart from about ten minutes of headless running, from which they were lucky to escape with the loss of only one wicket, it was a display worthy of a knockout match; and it impressed Ricky Ponting enough to anoint them favourites to win their semi-final clash against Pakistan.

India were always expected to win on the back of their batting but, for the second consecutive match, the bowling delivered. Against West Indies it was difficult to ascertain the quantum to which the bowlers had been assisted by the opposition batsmen, but against a far more purposeful group of batsmen on Thursday, the Indians gave little away. And the most noticeable, and dramatic, improvement was in the field. Even MS Dhoni, who has worn a look of resignation whenever asked about Indian fielding, reckoned that his team might have saved 15 runs in the field. It might have made the difference between victory and defeat.

It helped that they put up their best fielding side. Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli were both electric in the ring, not only saving runs and keeping the batsmen honest but visibly lifting their team-mates. Early in the innings, Kolhi stopped a scorching drive at short cover and had a lightning shy at the non-striker's end. Raina dived first to his left and then his right at point to cut off boundaries, and suddenly India looked a perkier team, determined not to give an inch. Yuvraj Singh joined in, making desperate stops off his own bowling, and R Ashwin hared around in the outfield, turning fours into twos.

The fielding never reached a level where it could be described as consistently spectacular. Munaf Patel was still sluggish and Yuvraj failed to pick the ball a couple of times near the boundary, but it was miles above the embarrassment it had been throughout the tournament. Maybe it was all part of a grand design: they were saving themselves up for the real matches.

The bowling rose to the challenge too. Ashwin's figures might not say it, but he has been a vital addition to the attack. He provides the control that India have missed at the start of the innings, and he has also provided early breakthroughs in both matches he has played so far.

Shane Watson's wicket was among the most crucial today. With his reach, and the ability to generate his own pace for strokes, Watson is a dangerous batsman on the slower wickets, and he was forced to swipe at a ball because Ashwin starved him of space.

Ashwin's presence in the XI also seems to have spurred Harbhajan Singh, the senior offpinner, to bowl more attackingly. Harbhajan was much more full on Thursday and though he went wicketless, he was the spinner who looked most likely to make a breakthrough. And as it has been the case throughout the World Cup, Yuvraj was the one who picked up the wickets, and it was not by coincidence.

Yuvraj may still look the innocuous handyman bowler who must quickly and unobtrusively get his overs out of the way but it's clear that he has worked on his bowling. The trajectory is consistently higher now, and consequently, there is more spin. When a spinner gets batsmen out driving, he is doing it right. His two scalps, of Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke, derailed the Australian momentum mid-innings.

And then there was the magnificent Zaheer Khan. What he has lost in pace he has more than made up with his mastery over his craft. He has been Dhoni's talisman in the World Cup. He has provided both the brakes and the breakthroughs every time Dhoni has needed them. He did Mike Hussey in today with that wonderfully deceptive slower ball he has developed for left-handed batsmen. It's bowled full, at drivable length, but it's never there for the drive, because it arrives after the bat has made its arc. Inevitably, Hussey's bat met with air, the ball found the stumps.

And then, apart from two balls down leg, Zaheer's yorkers were virtually impossible to score off in the batting Powerplay. Even Ricky Ponting, then batting in the 90s, was forced to work him around for singles. Asked later at the press conference to compare the Indian and Pakistan bowling attacks, Ponting said, and he looked like he meant it, that they were quite similar.

That's as big a compliment as the Indian bowling attack could have hoped to get.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

RSS Feeds: Sambit Bal


Comments: 58 
. Your ESPN name '' will be used to display your comments. Please click here to edit this.
Comments have now been closed for this article

Posted by vinodh on (March 27, 2011, 16:21 GMT)

it almost was good as any final in a world cup

Posted by Unni on (March 27, 2011, 7:01 GMT)

is there some way to get praveen kumar back in team?????????? even if you replace munaf with sree or nehra it would be no better.. sree has an edge over munaf.. but he can be horrible at times leaking a lot of runs.. but ashwin is just brilliant to be frank.. to bowl in powerplays with that economy rate is great.. i dont know how he works out against pak.. they are easonably good plyers of spin..

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 26, 2011, 5:40 GMT)

Well done India, played this match like they wanted to win the world cup, the same aspirations as their adoring fans. They have to keep up this intensity against Pakistan in Mohali, especially in Bowling and fielding

Posted by Nick on (March 26, 2011, 4:33 GMT)

Their fielding was definitely unbelievable in this match and as much as I agree with you Sambit about the "never consistently spectacular", I think Dhoni and everyone will be looking back saying, we proved to ourselves we're a much better fielding side than we thought and that's going to be motivation enough to continue! Munaf is a sad excuse for a pace bowler. What good is his wicket-to-wicket accuracy if he has no fire but can't really say Sree is a better choice. He's too wayward. Oh boy how India needs a good pacer. One last missing link!!

Posted by Vinod on (March 26, 2011, 2:37 GMT)

Munaf is indeed a weak link in the Indian bowling line-up. He should be replaced with Sreesanth in the Semi-Final. Sreesant is good on the field and carries certain energy level. If Dhoni has to somehow find overs where he can bowl Munaf's overs, he can do the same thing with Sreesanth as well.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 25, 2011, 22:40 GMT)

Pls pls replace munaf patel with sreesanth.......else All Izz Well!

Posted by Muhammad on (March 25, 2011, 21:16 GMT)

crunch game b/w pak & india pak favourite

Posted by Junks on (March 25, 2011, 19:15 GMT)

Nice article. I was quite surprised by the good bowling effort!

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 25, 2011, 13:27 GMT)

according to ponting if India and Pakistan bowling is same then why Australia scored 84 runs short against Pakistan as compare to India

Posted by Senthil on (March 25, 2011, 12:46 GMT)

Another Excellent Article :-) India really Saved their best for Big Matches and Saved their best XI also, This should be the XI for the remaining 2 Matches as well. Hope Dhoni keep Attacking with Same kind of Field Set, never mind his Worst batting Form at present. All the Best Team India.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 25, 2011, 11:59 GMT)

End of the day, it was a wonderful competition.....Aussies were 20 runs short due to the exceptional last 10 overs bowled by Indians. As usual little master laid a solid platform on which the rest of the boys went on in style. Yuvi was just brilliant with the bat, ball and fielding as well...Forgetting the valuable yet crucial knock by Gauti would not be fair. Hats off to Gauti as he aptly provided the cautionary acceleration to the Indian innings at the exact time. Among all, Raina is thoroughly back....What an innings...Outstanding....Every bit of team India has contributed in this historic win...

A Royal Salute to Little Master on his 18000 Landmark....

Posted by jasprit on (March 25, 2011, 9:51 GMT)

Are you serious? It was 225 max wicket. Indian bowlers could not use the conditions ie slowness and spin in the wicket. They bowled all over the place to let Aus score 260. The reason India won was cz when Dhoni got out, Ponting made the mistake of taking off his slow bowlers and brought on Lee and Tait. They tried to bowl short and pace instead of wicket to wicket and take the pace off. India scored something like 30 runs in the next 3 overs. Thats where the match was lost for Australia.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 25, 2011, 9:17 GMT)

Yeah, it's probably still a bit rich comparing the PAK bowling attack to ours .. PAK and SA definitely have two of the most well rounded bowling outfits in this tourney. However, we did visibly lift the bowling and fielding standards today. Hope we can keep this level of effort up.

Posted by Shantanu on (March 25, 2011, 8:03 GMT)

Much as one would like to compliment the bowlers there is always a room for improvement. A few points - Munaf Patel was targetted and he had no answer, Harbhajan's last over went for 13 including 5 wides when expected runs wer 6 or 7. I'm very sure that Harbhajan shouldnt bowl the last over. The bowling looks settled except Munaf but the bench strength is so bad that his replacement is even more riskier. The pitches in this world cup are not what you would usually get at those centres so at Mohali I dont know what to expect. Even then the option of third seamer is open depending upon pitch. 7 batsmen and 4 bowlers is the way to go for India.

Posted by Dru on (March 25, 2011, 7:56 GMT)

Ind were awesome and Aus came in to the battle with the wrong weapons - their lack of spin was obvious as was the inability of the pace battery to get wickets. Ind gave 3 needless wickets with signs of panic and I thought the call to play Raina paid off. Yuvi was all class and showed great maturity and will surely be the player of the series. I think India have made massive strides as a result of this game - there have been tremours about panic and collapses and weak bowling all of which were laid to rest against a tought opponent yesterday and I think the team selection is also spot on with Ashwin and Raina. Ind havent seen overly impressive...till now and its the right time to be in this position and what a semi final to look forward to.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 25, 2011, 7:34 GMT)

The bowling attack will be more decisive if we take out munaf patel and atleast give sreesanth a try. If trial cannot be made at such important moments then we can use replace yusuf atleast for munaf it can make the batting side more stronger.

Posted by Vijay on (March 25, 2011, 6:57 GMT)

Zaheer the man who is a huge difference in Indian bowling, Yuvi is a big surprise and Ashwin is doing his job. Bhajji is again a wicketless and that's scary before the semis. We should play Yusuf or Sreesanth and drop Munaf.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 25, 2011, 6:43 GMT)

Dhoni kept his word: He said that they will play their best in the quarter final and was absolutely right: no middle order collapse, first time had a formidable bowling performance in the tournament barring Munaf, and most notably spectacular fielding. And I appreciate his captaincy too - saving Aswin for big matches and inclusion of Raina ahead of Pathan - this single most reason for India's victory against Australia

Posted by vipin on (March 25, 2011, 6:42 GMT)

zaheer best Indian Fast bolwer after Srinath..... how does he handle so much pressure... he is the only world class bolwer in India team.... Harbhajan is 10% of his past.... zaheer is surely missing Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar... because these two bowlers have ability to take wickets at crucial time....

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 25, 2011, 6:31 GMT)

ashwin is prety young and to bowl in such an important game is no easy task! 10-0-52-2 isnt bad at all! considering he BOWLED IN THE POWERPLAYS! good job india! we can go all the way now!

Posted by Shahzad on (March 25, 2011, 5:49 GMT)

Can anyone explain what Gambhir was doing against Aus... his 3rd attempt to committ a run out was finally successful...one would be blind to ignore it... he even stopped while running back to non striker end for no reason...y would u 'run-stop-run' to get back...

Posted by Nav on (March 25, 2011, 5:41 GMT)

I don't think India's bowling will click against Pakistan. Yesterday also it was the part time bowler Yuvraj did the job for India. Other than Zaheer, India still doesn't have a good bowler. If Sreesanth was given just one more chance in the league matches, we would have known whether he can be used or not. There is a clear partiality against Sreesanth. I still think with this bowling India can't beat a good team. If a team scores near 300, I am sure that India can't chase that score. Also if India fails to score more than 300, they don't have a chance at all to defend the total.

Posted by Mohammed on (March 25, 2011, 5:36 GMT)

Undoubtly, Zaheer has been Dhoni's favourite man as after his first spell, whenever he brings him back, Zaheer earns a wicket. This is really something magical and that is why Zaheer must be applauded...............

Posted by Arun on (March 25, 2011, 5:23 GMT)

Ashwin made the difference ... Right now only worry for India is Munaf Patel's performance ... He is slowly loosing his form... May be Dhoni can try Sreesanth against Pakistan... ( Knowing Dhoni there is very less chance of Sreeshanth making into playing eleven )...

Posted by Rajeev on (March 25, 2011, 5:21 GMT)

Wonderful bowling by Zak today....the bowling is coming good at the right time for India except for Munaf....he shud be replaced with Nehra for the next game....Eagerly waiting & expecting it to be the most exciting game of the worldcup against Pakistan....Go India go...!!

Posted by Cricinfouser on (March 25, 2011, 5:16 GMT)

Although I am not fan of Sreesanth but I feel that he should be playing instead of Munaf. Munaf goes for a lot of runs so does Sreesanth, only advantange Sreesanth has is that he is good fielder and is good in cutting of the boundries and throwing bowl faster to the keeper.

Posted by SANJAY KUMAR on (March 25, 2011, 4:32 GMT)

hi, Sir, you noticed very good point- that's fielding diplay on the field. It was not briliant fileding, but enough to assist indian Team's strength. If they put slight more effort on fieldiing, it will be a leathal tool against mighty pakistani. Only squeezing in fileding , can overpower them. Rest is quite balancing. So, keep good fielding on the field is a point.

With Regards


Posted by Ethirraj on (March 25, 2011, 4:30 GMT)

But Munaf is the weak link. He can't bowl more than 130 km/h. Please replace him with Sreesanth. Don't take risk in the semi final by playing Munaf.

Posted by Raghvender on (March 25, 2011, 4:28 GMT)

our fielding has improved bit our bowling still lacks teeth

Posted by Rajesh on (March 25, 2011, 4:22 GMT)

Wow with Aussies done and dumped the focus is on Wednesday. The same strategy is to be adopted by the openers. If they can give a good opening of about 50 runs in about 10 overs without losing a wicket, any game is ours not withstanding the opposition bowling and wicket. This gives enough cushion for guys like Kohli, Gambhir and Yuvraj to play themselves in. The Ashwin effect as rightly said has rubbed off on Bhajji who is tending to attack more.If Munaf with the ball and our captain with the bat can come to the party, i think we will be blazing on all fronts. All the best guys to keep the WC record against Pakistan clean

Posted by Anjana on (March 25, 2011, 4:11 GMT)

Well done team India! excellent performance and a thrilling result. Congratulations from Sri lanka. I think ZAK showed Johnson and Tait that quick bowling is not all about the pace you generate, but the disciplined line and length together with variations. Tait and Johnson only consider about pace, and looked like pussy cats against a quality batting line up!

Posted by venkataramana rao on (March 25, 2011, 4:01 GMT)

India put up a much improved performance. However, India may benefit from playing Sreesanth instead of Munaf since we need wicket takers in the mix.

While Raina delivered against Australia, I would still play Yusuf Pathan instead of Raina. This is something to mull over. That possibly would be Indias best team to beat Pakistan and against either SA or Sri Lanka in the final assuming SL and SA beat England and NZ respectively.

By beating Aus, India have proved themselves. From here it is 2 matches to glory. Take it one at a time.... Hopefully we will get there....

Posted by jasprit on (March 25, 2011, 3:48 GMT)

Are you out of your mind/ What game were you watching? This was a 225 wicket. Indian bowlers bowled couldnt use the slowness and spin in the wicket and leaked runs to let Aus score 260. India batted well to score victory. Good

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 25, 2011, 3:42 GMT)

The team effort was really heart-warming...more of the same boys...

Posted by Goddadda on (March 25, 2011, 3:38 GMT)

The weak link for India remains the 2nd seamer - both Munaf and Nehra have been let downs besides being horrendous in the field. Sreesanth is an option - but he can go for runs. Given the relatively quick nature of the Mohali wicket, Sreesanth seems the best bet.

Posted by mohammed on (March 25, 2011, 3:36 GMT)

Great stuff! Time to repeat this against Pakistan :)

Posted by Sudharshan on (March 25, 2011, 3:33 GMT)

Indians should cut off munaf & Dhoni should get into the form to raise the team

Posted by Moha on (March 25, 2011, 3:26 GMT)

Well done India!!. At least we will have new World champion this time (Of course AUS don't deserve to be WC this time). Hope SL will come to final with IN or PAK (very possible).

Posted by Nataraaj on (March 25, 2011, 3:17 GMT)

Congrat's team india. beating defending champion Aus is great. Zaheer,Yuvaraj,Ashiwin did a great job to restrict Aus for mere 260 which made bat's man job easy and partnership's that kept preasure on Aus & made india to achive the target... There are still few concerns like Bajj & Munaf not striking early wickets. we cannot container pak bat's man,,need to take wickets at regular intervals and not give opportunity for anyone to make big individual scores which is the key factor. Indian batting is not a concern because we have 7 strong lineup. Good luck india

Posted by Moha on (March 25, 2011, 3:11 GMT)

Well done India!!. At least we will have new World champion this time (Of course AUS don't deserve to be WC this time). Hope SL will come to final with IN or PAK (very possible).

Posted by Kamal on (March 25, 2011, 2:59 GMT)

Zaheer is always a break through bowler especially in the time of need. Really no doubt ...Indian Fielding was superb and bowling was great.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 25, 2011, 2:58 GMT)

I was up whole night watching this great match. Thanks to both teams.

Posted by cricket on (March 25, 2011, 2:42 GMT)

Zaheer Khan is a wonderful nets bowler compared to Umar gul

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 25, 2011, 2:24 GMT)

yes Ashwin really deserves praise for keeping the Pakistanis score low ..Congrats India!!

Posted by mahela on (March 25, 2011, 1:16 GMT)

good performance by india over all but i dont agree to idea that indian bowling rose to the occasion.it was a spin friendly wicket n india a spin heavy attack n still they got to 260 for 6 n if fielding wasnt so improved target could easily b 280 and their most out of form batsman scored a hundred.with only one quality spinner 280 could b very tough for india so u cant really say bowlers saved the day for india.it was sachin who gave the solid foundation n yuvraj who stayed cool otherwise bowlers had put the team in a tricky situation.dont forget aus got out for 176 just a couple of days ago n it wasnt a spin or pace friendly wicket there it was a normal wicket.i dont think this standard of bowling will win u a game against pakistan who r a lot better player of spin

Posted by Surya on (March 25, 2011, 0:42 GMT)

Very pleasing! Now we can say we are worthy winners if we win. We beat champions and we can say we are going to win this!

Posted by Varma Jules on (March 24, 2011, 23:57 GMT)

Congrats India!! Too bad for ponting..but scoring a hundred in his last wc innings really underlines his class as a modern day great!

Posted by Qasim on (March 24, 2011, 23:25 GMT)

This lost has seriously damaged Ponting mentally. "Ind and Pak bowlers are quite similar" - what an absurd comparison

Posted by Atul on (March 24, 2011, 23:23 GMT)

wat abt Munaf ? Why is he given so many chances? We cud hav replacd him with Sreesanth earlier. It's not too late yet. I wud also replace Bhajji with Chawla or Pathan.

Posted by richard on (March 24, 2011, 22:47 GMT)

Well done to the Indian cricket team - Unfortunately for me and the other Aussies you better team on the day. You bowlers will need to bowl like they did today to have any chance of winning the Cup. My money is on South Africa..... with Pakistan the perpetual dark horse.

That hundred might just save Pontings career for the time being. What a great, fighting innings under immense pressure. Alas most of the middle order didnt help him. Why Smith wasn't playing was beyond me - White should have been given a rest and Smith should have played. It would have given the same amount to the batting (as White is horribly out of form) and Smith is a far better bowler. They just needed that extra something. Props to India - good luck for the rest of the tournament.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 24, 2011, 22:35 GMT)

wow i must have been watching a different game. Well done india, another masterful batting performance and cleary the most potent line up in the tournament, Yuvraj once again showing his skill at the 50 over game, man of the tournament so far in my books. 260 looked a par score, australias best batting performance of the tournament however i think feguson should have been in instead of white who cant seem to cope with the lower, slower pitches of the sub continent. Not sure i agree with Sambit, IF india bowl like that to Pakistan, Sril Lanka or SAF i think they will get pumped, Zaheer bowled some beauties as did Yuvraj but in my books it was indias batting that won them the game, not their bowling. their fielding has also come a long way and you couldnt help but be impressed with their desperation in the field. good luck in the rest of the tournament.

Posted by Gudu on (March 24, 2011, 22:11 GMT)

Well done India. The Semi final with Pakistan will be a beauty to watch, the match of the world cup 2011.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 24, 2011, 22:01 GMT)

WHAT can I say but congrats INDIA a welll deserved victory.HOWEVER my team is the WI and I do hope they are taking notes. there is nothing special about the INDIAN team. BUT THEYhave applied themselves,and they were successful. WELL DONE INDIA

Posted by Amuthan on (March 24, 2011, 22:00 GMT)

well done india for guranteeing a new champion after 3 world cups.... again, an asian team is definite to make the finals... hope this time one wins!!!

Posted by Calvin on (March 24, 2011, 21:52 GMT)

So the naysayers have to eat their words...This Indian attack is potent and can do wonders.

Posted by Gower on (March 24, 2011, 21:47 GMT)

"With Zaheer Khan on top form, R Ashwin proving a vital addition, Yuvraj Singh flighting the ball more and Harbhajan Singh bowling more aggressively, India's bowling attack has improved to the extent Ricky Ponting compared it with Pakistan's"

Euphoria is a very strange thing. The first half, I agree with. The second half... where to begin?

Posted by Sridhar on (March 24, 2011, 21:36 GMT)

Great show team INDIA.. !!! Best of luck for the next game against pakistan!!!

Posted by Vinod on (March 24, 2011, 21:31 GMT)

In the current situation Munaf Patel is India's weakness. If what we have seen throughout the tournament is what he can deliver then I think may be we can replace him with Yusuf Pathan. Ashwin opens the bowling anyways.! Munaf Patel doesn't look like taking wickets and in a match against Pakistan where we have to be at best, I feel that may be Sreesanth should be played. He carries certain energy level and is also good with his fielding. Since Dhoni has to somehow sneak Munaf's overs, why not play someone else or even play a batsman. If the Mohali pitch is one which is going to help the seamers, we definitely need to leave Munaf Patel. It will be tough to hide him in a big match like how Australians targeted him today!

Email Feedback Print
Sambit BalClose
Sambit Bal Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

    How Bangladesh is finding and developing its talent

Mustafizur, Mosaddek, Mehidy, Nazmul - where did they all come from? By Mohammad Isam

    It's time to rediscover Test-match batting

Mark Nicholas: England's recklessness in the name of positivity is a sign that the art of batting in the longest format is no longer given due attention

Is it possible for a Pakistani to be a fan of Ian Botham?

Imran Yusuf ponders an age-old question
The Cricket Monthly

    Nottingham's the charm

On tour in the UK, Firdose Moonda witnesses a fine comeback, visits the country's oldest pub, and squeezes in some yoga lessons

News | Features Last 3 days

No stories yet

News | Features Last 3 days

World Cup Videos