India has warmed up to a comprehensive nine-wicket win over the dangerously unpredictable Ireland on a cold day at Belfast. The bowling from India was right on the money which was followed up with a solid display from two left handers – Ganguly and Gambhir. India got to the revised target of 171 with 25 balls to spare.
A good toss was won by Rahul Dravid in the morning that saw heavy overcast conditions. Rightly so, Dravid asked Ireland to bat first. The Indians had to do without MS Dhoni and Zaheer Khan as they were both unfit. Ireland had three players making their debut while India presented Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma his first cap. The opening bowlers Sreesanth and RP Singh got the ball to swing and seam to make it difficult for the Ireland top order. Sreesanth picked up the first two wickets to fall both coming off outside edges. While the first wicket came quickly in the 5th over, India had to wait till the 14th to get the next one which came in Sreesanth’s second spell. There was a milestone achieved when the second wicket went down with Sourav Ganguly taking his hundredth catch in his career, this catch was at second slip.
Ajit Agarkar, the one change bowler didn’t get off to a good start, but he did get a marvelous inswinging yorker which cleaned up the impressive defence of the opening batsman William Porterfield (16). The introduction of Piyush Chawla once the powerplays were over saw a couple of wickets falling in a hurry. Chawla first clean bowled debutant Gary Wilson with a googly and then induced a top edge in Kevin O’Brien’s sweep shot to have Ireland at 83 for 5. A brief partnership then followed between the left handed Niall O’Brien and Andre White which was broken by a leg break from Chawla that was nicked behind by White. Piyush Chawla ended his 10 overs on the trot taking 3 for 29 besides bowling a couple of maidens.
The Indian bowlers somehow didn’t do the clean up job efficiently well. This allowed Niall O’Brien to put up a wonderful partnership with the big Trent Johnston who went onto smack Sreesanth for a couple of sixes over mid wicket. RP Singh gave the breakthrough for India when Niall O’Brien miscued a big shot. The wicket keeper batsman got 52 from 79 with 4 boundaries. Ireland towards the end managed to bat out their 50 overs. They were bowled out for 193 with the last wicket falling down in the final ball of the innings which happens to be Sachin Tendulkar’s 150th! Trent Johnston, the Ireland Captain had helped his team to get to a respectable total by scoring 34. The Indian bowlers had bowled 16 wides which could be a lot for an ODI.
During the lunch break, rain came down to delay the start of the Indian innings for a long time. The target was reduced to 171 in 39 overs. There was a new opening combination for India with Sachin Tendulkar coming in with Sourav Ganguly. Just when it was looking that India had got to a flier getting two boundaries off the first over, Tendulkar was clean bowled playing right across a full delivery which was pitched on the middle stump by debutant Roger Whealan. But that was going to be only wicket that was going to be taken as Ganguly and Gambhir cashed in to crack unbeaten half centuries to wrap up the match. Both the left handers put on an unbeaten stand of 162 runs which had come mostly through sensible cricketing shots. Gambhir got 80 from 107 with 9 fours while Ganguly got 73 from 99 with 6 fours and a six straight down the ground.
Both Ganguly and Gambhir had to work for their runs as the Ireland bowlers were getting good assistance from the track. Shot making wasn’t that easy as the ball was deviating off the surface consistently. For getting the top score of the match, Gautam Gambhir was named as the Man of the Match.