India defeated Netherlands on a sluggish track at the Feroz Shah Kotla with nearly 14 overs to spare though the margin of victory couldn't mask a lacklustre performance from the home side. The Indian bowling was just about tidy against some dour Netherlands batting, and their bunch of big hitters came unstuck for a while against the left-arm spin of Pieter Seelaar in a low-intensity match.
Chasing 190, India raced out of the blocks with Sachin Tendulkar becoming the first man to reach 2000 World Cup runs with a hat-trick of boundaries in the fifth over, and Virender Sehwag backing that with three more fours in the sixth. The flurry of hitting had the Delhi crowd buzzing, and when Sehwag carved Seelaar over extra cover for six and then dabbed him to third man for four, India were 69/0 in the eighth over and Netherlands looked set for a hiding.
Seelaar, though, ensured it wasn't another embarrassingly one-sided match, like many of those involving the Associates in this tournament. He had Sehwag slicing to point, and then dismissed both Tendulkar and the promoted power-hitter Yusuf Pathan in the 10th over to rein in India.
Virat Kohli didn't last too long before being bowled by Peter Borren, but Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh steadied the innings as Netherlands' limited bowling struggled to make more inroads. They added 40 trouble-free runs before Gambhir was bowled round his legs. It was left to Yuvraj and MS Dhoni, India's finishers over the past few years, to calmly steer India to victory with a 61-run stand, with Yuvraj getting his third half-century in a row.
India would have had a tougher test had it not been for a Netherlands middle-order collapse, which was sandwiched by a solid start and a flourish at the end. On choosing to bat, Eric Szwarczynski, playing his first match of the tournament, combined well with Wesley Barresi to put on 56, equalling Netherlands' best opening partnership in World Cups. There were only six boundaries in the first two Powerplays but aside from a couple of half-chances, it was easy going for Netherlands.
Piyush Chawla, surprisingly retained after a horror match against Ireland, finally got the breakthrough in the 16th over with his favourite weapon, the googly, which bowled Szwarczynski after he read it too late. The next dismissal came from the most impressive bowler in the Ireland game, Yuvraj, whose wicket-to-wicket bowling got Barresi lbw.
Tom Cooper and Ryan ten Doeschate, two batsmen with career averages in the mid-60s, thwarted India for 10 overs, surviving two tough caught-and-bowled chances but dispatching the odd loose ball served up to put on 35. Netherlands were 99 for 2 after 29, not quite top gear, but the platform was in place for some big hits later on. It wasn't to be though, as both batsmen were dismissed in successive overs to spark a collapse that cost them 5 for 28.
Bas Zuiderent had alerted the world to his talent with a half-century against England in 1996, but of the 16 innings he has played in World Cups since, 12 have been single-digit efforts. Today was another failure for the experienced batsman, done in by Zaheer's swing.
There were a couple of avoidable run-outs as well, but the dismissal that was most embarrassing for Netherlands was Alexei Kervesee's; he swiped a long hop from Chawla, expertly picking out Harbhajan Singh at deep midwicket.
The Netherlands captain, Peter Borren, had spoken of playing brave cricket before this game, and it was his adventurous hitting that lifted his side towards 200. He warmed up by lashing Yuvraj for a couple of powerful fours in the 42nd over, before taking the batting Powerplay and damaging Chawla's figures with a couple of muscular hits over long-on. Mudassar Bukhari joined the fun, swinging two sixes over the leg side before both he and Borren were dismissed by Zaheer in the same over to wrap up the innings.
The win puts India top of the table, but they are through with their easy outings in the tournament, with only South Africa and West Indies remaining in the league phase before the knockouts.