India completed a 125-run destruction of the West Indies with 15 overs to spare at Old Trafford to take one step closer to the semi-finals.
The only unbeaten team at the 2019 Cricket World Cup thus far, India were neither exciting or pretty. But they were clinical.
They found run-scoring difficult on a slow, second-hand pitch. Man of the Match Virat Kohli made 72 hard-fought runs and along with MS Dhoni’s unbeaten 56, led India to a competitive 268-7.
Mohammed Shami, the hat-trick hero from India’s previous victory over Afghanistan, produced another excellent performance, finishing with 4-16.
The West Indies disappointed with the bat and collapsed to 143 all out with 94 balls remaining, sealing their fate of being knocked out in the group stage.
India won the toss and elected to bat. West Indies bowled with discipline to frustrate the Indian top-order batsmen.
The Indian openers had punished the short-ball early in the innings. Captain Jason Holder, not wanting to repeat this mistake of previous matches, corrected this by consistently bowling on off-stump.
The runs dried out as he began his spell with two maidens. Kohli, who came to the crease after Rohit Sharma fell early on, struggled against his Windies counterpart.
It was Holder’s persistent off-stump line which bowled KL Rahul, two runs short of his 50, and bringing to an end his 69-run partnership with the Indian skipper.
This was the fourth time in five innings that poor shot selection by Rahul led to his dismissal. Thus far he had punched and driven length balls with a straight bat, but on this occasion he played across the line.
His dismissal exposed the gaping hole left by the injury to opener Shikhar Dhawan. The Indians bat well when a platform has been built by a partnership for one of their first two wickets.
Without this platform, the burden falls onto the middle-order, who are not exactly firing on all cylinders. And it was Kemar Roach, with a brilliant 3-36, who was to shine a light on their frailties in the middle overs.
Roach followed the same strategy as Captain Holder and got one to straighten to dismiss Vijay Shankar. Roach’s full and accurate bowling also dismissed Kedar Jadhav, who had been promoted unsuccessfully to number five.
With India at 140-4, India’s superstar pair, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni were at the crease. But factoring in the pitch, the conditions and the excellent bowling, the pair grinded out their runs.
Kohli’s innings was characterised by punching into the gaps and running the hard yards, and only occasionally punishing the bad ball for a boundary with panache.
Dhoni, who prefers to take his time and be patient in the middle overs, seemingly lacked form and timing. The veteran was probably mindful also that India’s batting was not deep with Mohammed Shami coming in at number eight.
Kohli fell to the aforementioned accurate bowling of Jason Holder (2-33), as he holed out to short mid-wicket. This was the fourth time that he was out between a fifty and a century.
The baton was passed on to Dhoni, who was joined by the hard-hitting Hardik Pandya. He also reined in his serial six-hitting. However, in his innings of 46 off 38 balls, he did not compromise on his strikerate, as he was the only Indian to score at one higher than 100, even though he only hit five boundaries.
A moment to forget for the West Indies was the missed run out of Dhoni, who walked out of his crease as he tried to smash Fabian Allen over mid-wicket in the 34th over.
Dhoni missed the ball and so far down the wicket, gave up on running back. Shai Hope however missed the stumping on chance on at least two occasions, after first spilling the ball, and failing to gather it a second time.
The West Indies, who had bowled with such accuracy and discipline, were expensive in the final overs. Jason Holder, so instrumental earlier in the innings, had bowled himself out.
As a result, he gave the ball to Carlos Brathwaite to bowl three of the death overs, but they went for 33 runs.
Before the final over, Dhoni struggled with fluency as he trudged to 40 runs off 55. Oshane Thomas bowled three excellent full balls for dots.
However, he also bowled three short balls which Dhoni hit for one four and two sixes. He finished unbeaten on 56 as he took India from 252 to 268.
For much of their cricketing history, India have been known for the strength of their batsmen. Nowadays though, India have one of the best bowling attacks in the world.
Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Brumrah bowled in tandem with the new ball, and the pair stifled and asked questions of the West Indies openers.
In the fifth over, the accumulated pressure was rewarded as an impatient Chris Gayle misjudged a ball which he harmlessly hit in the air to Jadhav at mid-off.
Bumrah worked on Shai Hope with short balls so when he tried to drive Shami, he was bowled for five runs.
With the West Indies at 16-2, Sunil Ambris and Nicholas Pooran aimed to rebuild. However, they scored runs very slowly. At 29-2 after 10 overs, this was officially the lowest scoring opening powerplay of the World Cup.
Nevertheless they made a partnership of 55 runs, but this took them 12 overs. By the time that they were dismissed, the West Indies required more than a run-a-ball, which would be tough on this pitch.
West Indies then collapsed in the middle overs, with the final seven wickets going for 72 runs in 14 overs.
The all-rounder Hardik (1-28) and spinners Kuldeep Yadav (1-35) and Yuzendra Chahal (2-39), were masterful with their variations, and the West Indies lost the next seven wickets for 72 runs in 14 overs.
On this occasion, there were to be no huge-hitting heroics from Carlos Brathwaite, whose tentative push was caught behind by a one-handed catch by Dhoni.
This was the second time that the Indian fans turned Manchester into Mumbai. Indian Tricolours were everywhere amongst the sea of blue which was like a tidal wave.
Despite only having one victory at the Cricket World Cup so far, West Indies still had a chance to reach the semi-finals if fortune favoured them. Their loss however confirmed that that is not possible.
On this occasion, their lack of patience got the better of the batting order, as they effectively gave their wickets away with poor shots.
Legendary former Windies fast bowler, Sir Curtly Ambrose said: “They’ve got the skills. It’s just a question of their temperament.”
West Indies captain Jason Holder summed up their campaign: “We have let ourselves down significantly in this tournament.
“The bowlers had a reasonable campaign but our batting has been too inconsistent.
“I couldn’t ask for more but we let ourselves down with the bat. This is our weakest format of the three.”
India look very focussed on winning their third World Cup. They are the only unbeaten team in the tournament and the only obstacles that they have faced have been the Afghanistan match, and the game against New Zealand.
On Sunday, they head to Edgbaston for their next game against England, the team that they have just replaced at the top of the ODI rankings.
India only need one victory from their final three matches, to secure a place in the semi-finals.
Team India captain Virat Kohli said:”We feel we can win from any situation.” With this confidence and mentality, it is difficult to bet against India winning the World Cup.