Windies blow in right direction
West Indies maintained their impressive Champions Trophy form to seal their place in the semi-finals with a thrilling three-wicket victory over India in Ahmedabad.
The Champions Trophy holders, who rocked the tournament by beating Australia last week, claimed the win they required to progress into the last four and confirm England’s exit from the competition.
Both sides were looking for the victory which would seal their semi-final place while England were hoping India, roared on by a capacity crowd, could keep their slim hopes alive by beating the holders.
But instead of the Indian public celebrating a triumph, West Indies overhauled their total of 223 for nine with Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan both hitting half-centuries to seal the triumph despite losing four wickets in 13 balls during the final stages of the run-chase.
It leaves India needing victory in their make-or-break showdown with Australia on Sunday, with the winners going through to the final stages and the losers bowing out of the competition.
India, surprisingly given the chance to bat first by West Indies captain Brian Lara, failed to make the most of their opportunity and quickly slipped to 69 for three.
Fast bowler Jerome Taylor picked up where he left off from his hat-trick against Australia, by making the breakthrough in the fifth over by trapping dangerous opener Virender Sehwag lbw.
That early success was followed by seamer Ian Bradshaw, rated at number three in the world one-day rankings, who induced pinch-hitter Irfan Pathan and Sachin Tendulkar into dragging onto their stumps on another slow pitch.
It took a determined 61-run stand off 80 balls between captain Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh to stabilise the innings and put India back on course for a total around 250.
They failed to reach that target after an inspired change of bowling from Lara, bringing Bradshaw back into the attack with 20 overs remaining and promptly helping to claim two wickets in his first over.
Yuvraj mis-timed a drive over the top and chipped the ball to cover, and five balls later new batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni ran out his captain for 49 after clipping to mid-wicket and setting off for a quick single.
Dhoni took 40 deliveries to score his first 12 runs as India slipped to 164 for six with only eight overs remaining, but he finished with a superb 51 off 65 balls before being run out off the penultimate ball of the innings.
Dhoni helped add a crucial 42 from the final five overs which at least made India’s total competitive and provided West Indies with a testing challenge as they bid to reach the semi-finals.
Hard-hitting opener Chris Gayle gave the holders a flying start by hitting 34 off 37 balls before inevitably holing out attempting another thundering drive.
But instead of building on that breakthrough, India were thwarted with Chanderpaul utilising all his experience to forge a 57-run stand with all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, who had been promoted to number three to try to build on the promising start.
It was not until Dravid turned to the spin of Harbhajan Singh that India began making inroads and reduced the scoring rate during the middle overs.
Harbhajan struck to trap Bravo leg before in his crease for a determined 16 and Sehwag’s part-time off-spin ended Chanderpaul’s influential innings when he edged to Dravid at slip.
With Sarwan and Runako Morton, man-of-the-match in the victory over Australia, forging another 92-run stand the outcome of the game seemed inevitable as West Indies moved closer to the target.
But with two overs remaining and 10 runs required for victory, West Indies almost threw away their chance of victory with a sudden loss of wickets.
Morton was trapped leg before by seamer Ajit Agarkar trying to play across the line and was followed in the next over by Lara, who was bowled by Pathan off a bottom edge.
The panic really began in the West Indies’ dressing room when Sarwan was run out, leaving two new batsmen at the crease for the final over and five runs required.
That task became even more difficult when Dwayne Smith was bowled first ball and it took an upper cut for four from Marlon Samuels to seal the thrilling win with two balls remaining.