Yuvraj Singh, India's batting all-rounder, once again shines with bat and ball to guide the co-hosts to a nervy five-wicket Group B win over the Dutch side.
India underwhelm in Netherlands win at World Cup
NEW DELHI // Up in the Feroz Shah Kotla commentary box, Sourav Ganguly would have squirmed. During his illustrious career, no class of bowler was treated with as much contempt as the left-arm spinner.
In Bangalore on Sunday, he watched George Dockrell, one of that breed, take two wickets as India laboured to a five-wicket win.
In Delhi yesterday, they beat Netherlands by the same margin and with 81 balls to spare, but there were again flattering figures for a left-arm spinner - Pieter Seelaar took three for 53, all the wickets coming in a frenetic first power play.
Though they restricted the opposition to 189, this was another underwhelming Indian display, just three days before they take on South Africa in a match that could decide who finishes top of Group B.
• Dhoni wants India to have it easy against Netherlands
• World Cup travails of travelling in cricket crazy Sri Lanka
• Points table
• Home is where the heart is for spin ace Muttiah Muralitharan
• Chris Tremlett to replace injured Stuart Broad
Peter Borren, the Dutch captain, was asked to assess the teams that they had faced and his response gave some insight into India's problems.
"In those games, we had to play Kemar Roach, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel," he said.
"Zaheer Khan is obviously a world-class bowler, but India don't have anyone bowling at 145 kph."
MS Dhoni, the captain whose sedate 19 helped India over the line, spoke of India's new-ball difficulties after the Dutch opening pair of Eric Szwarczynski and Wesley Barresi had added 56 for the opening wicket.
"It's important to get initial wickets in these conditions," said Dhoni. "It's the only way to stop the opposition scoring at a brisk pace."
The breakthrough came courtesy of a Piyush Chawla googly, and the leg spinner bowled a fair bit better despite Borren taking him for two sixes in his final over.
One again though, Harbhajan Singh went wicketless. In 12 matches going back a year, he has now taken just nine.
Once again, the slow bowler who made the difference was Yuvraj Singh, who took away a second successive man-of-the-match award with two for 43 and an unbeaten half-century.
His first wicket, Barresi, was his 100th in one-day internationals. The second, Ryan ten Doeschate, a century maker against England, was caught on the rope at long-off, and it triggered a slide that saw the Dutch lose four wickets for nine runs.
Borren's cavalier 38 and Mudassar Bukhari's 21 helped the last three wickets to add 62, but there were few signs of alarm as Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag started the reply with 69 in just 7.3 overs.
Sehwag, playing what will be a lone World Cup match in front of his home crowd, was his dismissive self, and Tendulkar joined in with a couple of sublime drives through the covers off Ten Doeschate.
The near-capacity crowd had celebrated as he went past 2,000 World Cup runs [when he got to 18], but it was a lot more subdued once India slipped to 99 for four.
Sehwag smacked one to point, Tendulkar was caught in the deep and the decision to promote Yusuf Pathan did not come off as he miscued one straight back to a delirious Seelaar.
"I usually don't bowl to that calibre of player," he said with a broad smile afterwards. "I thrive on that. It gets the best out of you."
On a very slow pitch, the lack of pace in the Dutch attack made it hard to put the ball away and apart from the odd flowing drive through the covers, even Yuvraj was restrained as India eased past the target.
A few matches ago, Yuvraj's very place in the side was being questioned.
Dhoni pointed that out when speaking about the upturn in his fortunes.
"I've always believed that he's been a big-match player," he said. "He saves his best for occasions like World Cups."
With a place in the quarter-finals almost assured, India will look to address obvious chinks in the two remaining games.
Dhoni suggested that R Ashwin, the off-spinner who also bowls an Ajantha Mendis-like carrom ball, would come into the picture against either South Africa or West Indies. On this evidence, it is a chance worth taking.