HAMILTON, New Zealand (AP) India’s remarkable turnaround at the Cricket World Cup continued on Tuesday with a fifth consecutive win ensuring the defending champion will top its pool heading into the quarterfinals.
India beat Ireland by eight wickets to remain unbeaten, a dramatic change after it entered the World Cup without a win in a competitive match in the previous two months on Australian soil, spanning four test matches and a limited-overs tri-series against Australia and England.
”We have been here for over four months, we had to sacrifice somewhere,” India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said. ”I knew it (form) would be back when the World Cup started.
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”I’m glad all of us have stepped up. It feels good – we just have to take the momentum forward.”
Shikhar Dhawan scored 100 and Rohit Sharma hit 64 in a 174-run opening partnership as India reached 260-2, chasing down Ireland’s 259 with 13.1 overs remaining.
Ireland’s push for a place in the quarterfinals will continue on the weekend against Pakistan.
India will stay atop Pool B regardless of the outcome of its last group match against Zimbabwe.
Ireland must now beat Pakistan in the last match of the pool round at Adelaide on Sunday, or at least take a point from that game, to have any chance of progressing.
”It’s all about being mentally fresh for that game in Adelaide,” Ireland captain William Porterfield said. ”It’s a winner-takes-all for us.”
India achieved its win with the kind of efficiency which has marked its progress through the tournament. After Porterfield made 67 and Niall O’Brien scored a run-a-ball 75 to give Ireland hope of a competitive total, India took seven wickets for 53 runs. Fast bowler Mohammed Shami had the best return of 3-41, and spinner Ravi Ashwin took 2-38.
Ireland’s total was also the highest score by any team against India in Pool B. India has in common with Pool A leader New Zealand the fact it has bowled out its opponents in all five of its matches: Pakistan for 224, South Africa for 177, United Arab Emirates for 102, and the West Indies for 182.
”It’s a good stat. It means the bowlers are really doing the job for us,” Dhoni said. ”It’s a remarkable difference, they’ve really stepped up. Not just the three fast bowlers, the spinners as well … looks like a happy unit.”
South Africa, Pakistan, Ireland and West Indies are all vying for the remaining quarterfinal spots from Pool B.
New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have already ensured they’ll reach the knockout round from Pool A, although the finishing order is still to be determined.
Coach Marvan Atapattu’s focus ahead of Sri Lanka’s match against Scotland in Hobart on Wednesday will be on how to combat the high attrition rate for his squad.
Dinesh Chandimal was ruled out after injuring his leg and having to retire hurt as Sri Lanka unsuccessfully tried to chase down Australia’s total of 376-9 on Sunday.
Dhammika Prasad, allrounder Jeevan Mendis, and batsman Dimuth Karunaratne have already been replaced in the squad due to injuries, and spinner Rangana Herath missed the match against Australia due to a hand injury.
”It’s a big blow to lose anybody from our original squad,” Atapattu said. ”We’ve come to the stage where, due to unavoidable circumstances, injuries, we have five replacements.”
Second-tier Scotland has never won a World Cup match, missing its best chance to end that drought recently against tournament newcomer Afghanistan.
”Obviously, if you have a chance to win the game in a convincing way, you take that option,” Atapattu said. ”But our priority here is to win a game of cricket so we can get some confidence out of the game tomorrow.”