KL Rahul’s pillaging hundred, the fastest by an Indian in World Cup, and Shreyas Iyer’s doubts-allaying 128 lit up the Diwali day as India mowed down Netherlands by 160 runs in Bengaluru on Sunday, registering their ninth consecutive victory in the showpiece. It helped India finish their league engagements with 18 points, and now they will move to Mumbai for the high-stakes semi-final clash against New Zealand on Wednesday. Rahul’s blitz and Iyer’s posh unbeaten 94-ball hundred combined well with fifties by Shubman Gill (51), Rohit Sharma (61) and Virat Kohli (51), powering India to a mammoth 410 for 4, their second highest World Cup total.
Thus, India became the third team in this tournament to post 400 after South Africa and New Zealand. The Indian bowlers did not have to sweat much to skittle the Dutch for 250 as even Kohli and Rohit, who took the final scalp, found themselves among the wicket-takers.
The Indian innings was dotted by two big stands that brilliantly exhibited aggressive batsmanship, so diligently followed by the hosts throughout this event.
Rohit and Gill started the carnage with a forceful 100-run alliance off just 71 balls for the opening wicket. Rahul and Iyer exponentiated that collecting 208 runs for the fourth wicket in little over 21 overs, and 122 runs cascaded in the final 10 overs alone.
The tons by Iyer and Rahul will delight the Indian management no end ahead of the knockouts in terms of middle-order batters’ productivity.
However, Iyer’s knock will please the thinktank by that bit more. There has been chatter around the right-hander’s susceptibility against short-pitched balls and he cleared it by some degree here.
The Netherland pacers did try that strategy against Iyer but the Mumbaikar was right up to the task, playing the pulls with comfort.
He made 82 runs on the on-side during his innings and 35 runs came off pulls or horizontal-batted shots. It might have filled him also with some level of confidence ahead of the crunch match against the Kiwis.
But his innings was not just about clearing the doubts as he scientifically broke down the Dutch bowling unit. In fact, Iyer’ was the kind of ODI innings that one can include in coaching archives as a model for budding cricketers.
The biggest highlight of Iyer’s batting is his ability to avoid risks – the awareness of bowlers and areas to target to keep the run-flow steady. It was on full view at the Chinnaswamy stadium.
Usually a fine player of spin, Iyer does have a weakness against the slow left-armers, evidenced by a reduced strike-rate of 90 against that type as compared to other exponents of slow bowling.
In line with that, he played out Roelof van der Merwe for singles and twos while targeting offie Aryan Dutt and pacers Paul van Meekeren and Logan van Beek.
Van Meekeren felt the heat in particular as Iyer lofted him for two 80m sixes over long-on and cover as the Dutch pacer gave too much width to free his hands.
They were not manufactured shots but the balls were begging to be hit, and Iyer just obliged.
Soon, he notched up his hundred with a single to mid-off off pacer Bas de Leede, and it took him just 84 balls.
Rahul, in fact, started quite steadily, and focused more on giving strike to the in-touch Iyer.
The first 30 balls he faced produced 26 runs, but once he decided to carve a place for himself in the partnership the next 33 balls saw Rahul pummelling 76 runs.
The Bengaluru man unbundled some of those shots that make his batting a captivating view. Iyer preferred the on-side more to get his runs, but Rahul’s shot-making touched all parts of the ground.
While he made 58 runs on the leg-side, 44 runs came through the off. It is tough to bowl to Rahul when is on the button and the Netherlands bowlers, in particular Meekeren and De Leede, felt the heat.
The signature swat-flick six off Van Meekeren over mid-wicket drew wows from the holiday crowd, while a slice-cut off Van Beek over deep backward point was all about instant innovation.
The 31-year-old soon brought up his seventh one-day hundred in bright style too – smashing two successive sixes off pacer De Leede over the mid-wicket region, and all he took was just 62 balls.
With that hundred, Rahul overcame Rohit’s World Cup record of 63-ball ton which the latter set during the match against Afghanistan.
However, the marauding start at the top given by Rohit and Gill once India batted by choice was just as important.
Gill did the early running for India on a Chinnaswamy pitch that offered a hint of bounce, producing his almost nil-follow through pulls and other range of shots predominantly on the leg-side.
After a slightly sedate start, Rohit also slipped into overdrive to punish the Netherlands bowlers.
But the ambition to accelerate led to the downfall of both of them, giving catches to the deep. But Kohli and Iyer added 71 runs off 66 balls to keep India chugging.
Just as Kohli looked primed for that much-anticipated 50th ODI hundred, Van der Merwe castled him with a skidder that rushed under his downcoming bat.
However, later Kohli had a sugary moment when he got the wicket of Dutch captain Scott Edwards, caught down the leg by Rahul behind the stumps, sending the spectators into a delirium.
Even Gill and Suryakumar Yadav also turned their arms for a couple of overs giving the proceedings a fin-de-siecle touch as the hosts used nine bowlers.
The Netherlands’ chase had nothing to write home about, apart from a brisk fifty by Teja Nidamanuru (54 off 39 balls) as they unravelled gradually.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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