Sehwag stars in thumping win
India played virtually perfect cricket - the exact opposite of what they did against Bangladesh the other day - and blasted Bermuda out of the water at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad. A display of creative and powerful batting, where four of the big six fired India to 413, a record total in World Cups and the bowlers then did their job, bundling Bermuda out for 156, winning the game by 257 runs, the largest margin in terms of runs in all ODI cricket. David Hemp resisted with an unbeaten 76 but lacked support from the rest in a one-sided contest.
Irvine Romaine, the Bemuda captain, put India in, and like the other day, when Netherlands put South Africa in, the minnow tasted early success. Robin Uthappa flashed a ball to slip for Dwayne Leverock to defy the laws of physics and gravity to leap to his right and catch at a wide slip position.
Virender Sehwag, pushed down to the middle-order, began badly, slashing and missing outside the off stump. But soon he settled down, and began thumping the ball over the off side with the same lack of footwork that has been his undoing in recent times. But the straight strikes down the pitch, and one loft over extra-cover that landed in the second tier, suggested that it would be Sehwag's day. And it most certainly was.
Sehwag's half-century came off only 43 balls, with 11 fours, but the real hitting followed, only pausing briefly when he neared the three-figure mark. That's understandable given he has not scored an ODI hundred in 59 innings or two years, and it was the kind of innings that justified his captain's faith.
While Sehwag was roaring back to his run-scoring ways, Sourav Ganguly was sedately keeping his end going. At no point did he attempt to boost the scoring rate, but instead chose to play the role of an anchor. When Sehwag was dismissed for 114 (87 balls, 17 fours, 3 sixes) India were 205 for 2, in under 30 overs, with Ganguly on 76 from 94 balls. Soon after, Ganguly too fell, stumped after coming down and having a mighty heave, for 89.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni began responsibly, looking to set himself a platform to launch from, but his run was cut short when a brilliant catch by Janeiro Tucker at long-off sent him packing for 29. At that stage India were comfortable at 269 for 4 from 38.2 overs. But what had gone by was merely the calm before the storm. Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar played strokes of such purity and majesty that it was batting at its very best. The crowd were on their feet for the duration of their association.
Yuvraj was quick to plant one knee down and scorch the ball over the ropes in the arc from square-leg to midwicket, hitting as cleanly as anyone has in this tournament. Tendulkar, on the other hand, dripped class. He chose just the appropriate shot for each ball, never losing his cool, always playing late. Tendulkar lofted one delectable six over long-off, swept one startling six over fine-leg, and almost unnoticed got to 57. And it's not often that you score 57 off only 29 balls without using brute force.
Yuvraj certainly used excessive force, but not one of his 83 runs, which came off only 43 balls, with seven sixes, came off an ugly shot. Rahul Dravid, who pushed himself down the order, finished the innings of with a six, and India had 413 for 5, something that would have gone some way in erasing the memory of the forgettable batting against Bangladesh.
Bermuda never had any realistic chance of chasing 414, yet India's aim was not a simple victory. Rather, they needed to win by at least 243 runs, the margin Sri Lanka beat Bermuda by. And they achieved that without too much difficulty.
Zaheer Khan provided the opening, squeezing one through the defences of Oliver Pitcher in the very first over. Steven Outerbridge was the second to suffer, when a delivery from Zaheer jagged sharply back in from outside the off stump and drilled the stumps. A bit of a partnership then held up India's charge, but Munaf Patel, who beat the bat often enough, was a bit fortunate to get on the scoreboard when a ball struck Delyone Borden high on the pad, and the appeal for lbw was upheld. Anil Kumble, playing in place of Harbhajan Singh, had Romaine for a duck when he shouldered arms to a straight one on the stumps. Tucker came down the pitch to Kumble - a risky thing to do at the best of times - and lost his stumps as he swung across the line and missed.
Dean Minors and David Hemp added 43 for the sixth wicket, the best stand of the innings, but Minors was dismissed mis-hitting a pull to mid-off. Lionel Cann was then smartly snapped up by Uthappa in a slightly controversial catch at short cover, where the ball was snatched up very close to the turf. From there on there was little to play for, and Bermuda only managed 156, handing India victory by 257 runs.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo