India remained the only unbeaten team in World Cup 2019 as they thrashed the West Indies by 125 runs to move closer to securing their place in the semi-finals. A win in the next game against hosts England will be enough to book a last four berth. On Thursday, India brought their A game with skipper Virat Kohli leading from the front and found support from MS Dhoni as the team posted 268 for seven after electing to bat. This was followed by a brilliant bowling performance, which saw the West Indies being skittled out for 143 in 34.2 overs. Mohammed Shami was the pick of the bowlers, taking four wickets for 16 in 6,2 overs while Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal chipped in with two wickets apiece.
In two successive matches now, the bowlers have more than covered up for a mediocre show from the batsmen, save skipper Kohli. Shami (4/16 in 6.2 overs) was at his best in the first spell as he first bounced Chris Gayle out and then bowled an off-cutter to remove Shai Hope.
In his second spell, he got Shimron Hetmyer while new ball partner Jasprit Bumrah (2/9 in 6 overs) was fast and accurate getting two wickets of successive deliveries.
Kuldeep Yadav (1/35 in 9 overs) and Yuzvendra Chahal (2/39 in 7 overs) were too hot for the Caribbean batsmen on a track, where run scoring became increasingly difficult with passage of time.
The last seven wickets fell for 63 runs in a space of 14 overs which indicated the Caribbean plight.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar with his incisive swing bowling has always been Chris Gayle's (6 off 19 balls) nemesis but it was in-form Shami, who drew the first blood with a short ball that climbed on the big man and the mistimed pull was taken by Kedar Jadhav, running sideways from his mid-on position.
Hope, West Indies' next big hope, got one from Shami that came in breaching his defence. Sunil Ambris (31, 40 balls) and Nicholas Pooran (28 off 50 balls) steadied the ship with a 55-run stand before both were dismissed in quick succession.
Hardik Pandya trapped Ambris plumb in-front before Pooran mistimed a lofted shot to Shami in the deep. The skipper Jason Holder then played a rank bad shot off Chahal as West Indies were knocked out of the contest at the halfway stage, reeling at 98 for five. When India batted, Dhoni scratched around for the better part of his innings before exploding in the final over to take India to 268 for 7 on a track that look good for batting.
There has been a lot of talk about Dhoni's failure to rotate the strike and Thursday's batting effort on another dry and slow track will only amplify the criticism before he got 16 in the final over to finish on 56 off 61 deliveries with three fours and two sixes.
More than his strike-rate, his percentage of dot balls remains a concern for India.
If India played 152 dot balls against Afghanistan, the run-less delivery count was 163 in this game.
It was Pandya, whose 46 off 38 balls took India past 250-run mark after skipper Kohli scored his fourth half-century.
The middle-order looked jittery again with skipper Kohli not getting enough support from the other batsmen. In fact, Dhoni's rustiness rubbed off a bit on the Indian captain, who ultimately gifted his wicket to his opposite number.
Kohli hit eight boundaries with stand-out shot being a lofted drive over covers off Oshane Thomas.
Veteran Kemar Roach (3/36) bowled fast and fuller length deliveries using the off-cutters to good effect while skipper Holder (2/33 in 10 overs) was economical, troubling the batsmen with back of the length deliveries.
Left-arm spinner Fabian Allen (0/52 in 10 overs) didn't get any wicket but a crucial aspect of his spell was the last five overs in which he gave away only 15 runs.
This was another left-arm spinner after Mitchell Santner and Shakib Al Hasan, who has now troubled Dhoni with his wicket-to-wicket bowling.
When Holder and Roach bowled fast and back of length, the former India captain found it difficult to manoeuvre the bowling but the final score turned out to be much above par.
(With PTI Inputs)