Indian captain MS Dhoni delighted with tough Zimbabwe work-out

Skipper makes 85 and Suresh Raina 110 after Brendan Taylor’s 138 helped set target of 289

 Brendan Taylor of Zimbabwe salutes the crowd as he leaves the field after making 138 in his final international match in the World Cup game against India   at Eden Park  in Auckland. Photograph:  Phil Walter/Getty Images

Brendan Taylor of Zimbabwe salutes the crowd as he leaves the field after making 138 in his final international match in the World Cup game against India at Eden Park in Auckland. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

 

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni welcomed the pressure placed on his team by Zimbabwe in their final cricket World Cup group match at Eden Park on Saturday.

Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor’s 138 in his final game for his country helped set India a challenging 289 to win, a task made harder when the world champions lost four wickets before reaching the hundred mark.

Dhoni (85) and Suresh Raina (110) then added 196 in an unbroken partnership which ensured India and co-hosts New Zealand are the only unbeaten teams going into the knock-out stages.

“I think it couldn’t have been better,” Dhoni told a news conference.

“If it had been the last game of the league stage and you get an easy win you don’t get a lot out of that.

“What was good was that the spinners were put under pressure and we lost quick wickets initially and that put our middle order under pressure so we gained a lot out of it.”

Dhoni said Raina’s innings at number five had been crucial.

“More often than not you don’t get an opportunity (at five),” he said.

“You get to bat maybe after the 38th, 39th over and you have to slog it out and you don’t score too many runs. At the end of the day, when you get into the knock-out you want to get runs under your belt.

“I would say it was a good game for us and all the batsmen were under pressure.”

Taylor, 29, will take up a contract with English county side Nottinghamshire in the summer but bowed out in spectacular fashion with back-to-back World Cup centuries after his 121 in the defeat to Ireland in Hobart last weekend.

“It was pretty tricky,” he told a news conference. “They bowled really well and then it just sort of fell into place a little bit. I said to myself as I went out today just to enjoy the moment and not put myself under too much pressure. That just helped a little bit.”

Taylor said he had been overwhelmed by the applause from a predominantly Indian crowd and the congratulations he had received from the India team after his dismissal.

He said Saturday’s century had probably been his best one-day innings.

“But if you are not going to win then it doesn’t feel so sweet,” he said. “It was definitely up there but unfortunately it was in another losing cause.

“It’s definitely a sense of sadness, a sense of disappointment. Sad in a way that I’m leaving my team-mates, leaving my home country for a number of years.

“I guess life goes on and you are posed with different challenges and choices. But it’s a positive one I’ve taken and I’m looking forward to it.”

Australia captain Michael Clarke is pleased with whatever batting opportunity he and his team mates had in their seven-wicket win over Scotland in Hobart on Saturday and said every member of the squad was ‘switched on’ for the knock-out stage.

Middle-order batsman Clarke and James Faulkner have only recently come back from injuries while another all-rounder, Shane Watson, has returned to the playing XI after being dropped from the team that beat Afghanistan on March 4th.

Clarke naturally wanted more batting time but the fear of rain resulted in greater urgency and Australia overhauled Scotland’s paltry 130-run total in the 16th over at the Bellerive Oval.

In a rejigged batting order, Clarke opened the innings and Watson came at number three, followed by Faulkner.

“I dearly would have liked all three of us to get a hundred each,” Clarke told a news conference.

“I think we did whatever we could. We made the most of whatever opportunity we had. I think most importantly, everybody in the squad mentally is ready to go,” said the right-hander who hit a run-a-ball 47.

Watson fell after a 23-ball 24 while Faulkner (16 not out off six balls) hit a six to seal Australia’s easy victory which ensured they finished second in Pool A.

“I still felt a little bit rusty there with the bat,” Clarke said.

“I don’t think Watty would have played that shot if he wasn’t putting the team first and Jimmy Faulkner had to come in and try and smack it at the end there. We made the most of it.”

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