Perth: India on Saturday virtually assured themselves of a quarterfinal berth in the cricket World Cup after spanking minnows UAE by nine wickets, recording their third successive win with yet another flawless display, here today.
After the bowlers led by off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (4/25) bundled out UAE for a paltry 102 in only 31.3 overs, the batsmen made short work of the target knocking off the required runs in only 18.5 overs in a completely lop-sided Pool B contest.
India thus maintained their grip on the top spot in the league table with three wins from as many matches which took their points tally to six. With three matches against West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland left, Dhoni and his boys, are well on course of topping the group.
Shikhar Dhawan (14) started off well with three sweetly-timed boundaries before Rohan Mustafa at gully pulled off a one-handed stunner to send him back. The pacer was Mohammed Naveed.
Rohit Sharma hit a fluent unbeaten 57 off 55 deliveries with the help of 10 fours and a six to notch up a significant score before the West Indies game.
While runs against UAE may not be the best indicator of anyone's current form, but some of Rohit's silken strokes would certainly keep the Caribbean bowlers worried before the duel on March 6.
Two strokes that stand out were cover drives off rival captain Mohammed Tauqir's off-spin. The first was hit through extra cover and the long-off fielder failed to stop it. The second off the very next delivery was hit finer and the result was same. Even when Rohit played the pull shot, it seemed as if he was indulging in touchplay rather use sheer muscle.
Virat Kohli (33 not out) had a calm day in office. Despite that he added 75 runs for the unbroken second wicket with Rohit in 12.2 overs.
The winning boundary was hit by Rohit and the celebrations were predictably muted as the win against UAE was taken for granted.
Earlier, India's bowling unit continued to impress as they skittled out a below-par UAE on a pitch that was good for batting.
Opting to bat at the WACA, the UAE batsmen couldn't replicate their spirited performance in the two previous games as Ashwin and Co. Performed like a well-oiled machine, maintaining their stranglehold on the opposition.
Ashwin with splendid career-best figures of 4/15 in 6.3 overs, was the pick of the bowlers but he also got good support from the likes of Umesh Yadav (2/15), comeback man Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1/19), find of the season Mohit Sharma (1/16) and Ravindra Jadeja (2/23), who kept the pressure from the other end.
While the WACA wicket is known for its pace and bounce, Dhoni decimated the opposition with his slow bowlers as the minnows didn't have an iota of idea about Ashwin's deliveries.
Neither could they judge the straighter ones nor did they have the technique to play the conventional off-break. And "doosra" was something that they simply couldn't read.
The match virtually turned into a "No Show" within the first 20 overs when UAE were reduced to 54 for six and had little chance of making a comeback into the game.
Some of the shots that the UAE batsmen played were testimony as to why ICC is making it a 10-team tournament from the next edition.
It was Bhuvneshwar, who started the slide with opener Amjad Ali (4) failing to execute a hook shot as Dhoni took an easy catch. His opening partner Andri Berenger also fell while attempting the same shot as the Yadav delivery was too quick for him and Dhoni took another easy catch.
From there on, it was completely Ashwin show as he had
the batsmen in his grips.
Krishna Karate (4) got one to jump and Raina took a catch at leg-slip while Dhawan took a smart one to dismiss Swapnil Patil (7).
Tournament's oldest player Khurram Khan (14) attempted a sweep shot off a delivery that pitched full and bounced a shade more as Raina ran from his first slip position towards leg-slip to complete the easiest of catches as half of the team was back in the hut for 44 runs.
Shaiman Anwar (35 not out, 6x4), UAE's man in-form tried his bit but there wasn't any support from the other end. It was Anwar, whose plucky shots got his team's total past 100-run mark.
The sixth UAE wicket to fall was left-hander Rohan Mustafa (2) who couldn't bring his bat down to a delivery from Mohit Sharma that nipped back a little to wrap him on the back-foot.
Once UAE were reduced to 71 for nine, Anwar's lusty blows in company of Asanka Guruge (10) got them 31 runs and a score in excess of 100.
India next play the West Indies on March 6 at the same venue.