Paarl (South Africa): India opened its Cup campaign on a not-so-impressive note marked by a collapse of its much-touted batting line-up but the bowlers pitched in to pull off a 68-run victory over minnows Holland in a low-scoring Group 'A' match on Wednesday. India suffered the ignominy of being bowled out inside its quota of overs, mustering just 204 runs, but even that proved to be too much for the inexperienced Holland which folded up for 136 but frustrated the Indians by a spirited late resistance.
Spinner Anil Kumble and speedster Javagal Srinath inflicted the maximum damage, claiming four wickets each respectively, as only opener Daan van Bunge came up with a decent score making a resolute 62. However, India was left with some serious questions to ponder on ahead of its big game against defending champion Australia on Saturday. With the honourable exception of Sachin Tendulkar, who was the top-scorer in Indian innings with 52, none of the Indian batsmen could really assert themselves against a mediocre bowling line-up of Holland after skipper Saurav Ganguly had elected to bat first. Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Mongia came up with useful scores of 37 and 42 respectively but even they were put under pressure and made to work hard for every run.
The rest of the batsmen put up a disappointing performance as they failed to find their bearings even on the big stage after their forgettable show in New Zealand. Tendulkar and Javagal Srinath, who returned with figures of four for 30, achieved personal milestones in this match. Tendulkar became the highest run-scorer in World Cups when he moved from 24 to 28 with a boundary, overtaking Pakistan's Javed Miandad who had 1083 runs from 33 matches. Tendulkar now has 1111 runs from 23 games. Srinath became only the fifth bowler and second Indian in One-day history to claim 300 or more wickets when he dismissed J Kloppenburg with the fourth ball of the innings.
Srinath joins teammate Kumble, Pakistanis Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan in the exclusive club. Tendulkar's wish of coming back to the top of the order was granted Wednesday as Ganguly and he walked out to open the innings after a long time. But unlike the usual flying start that India is so used to, the pair began very cautiously, conscious of the need for both the out-of-form batsmen to settle down before hitting out. Tendulkar probably justified his promotion with his knock even though it was not as fluent as he would have liked it to be. But Ganguly's form continued to desert him as he edged a Roland Lefebvre delivery to the wicket-keeper after making a scratchy eight runs.
Rahul Dravid was clean bowled between his bat and pads for the umpteenth time this season while Virender Sehwag and Mohammad Kaif hit juicy full-tosses straight to the fielder as India slipped to 114 for five in the 32nd over. Tendulkar, who struck seven fours in his 72-ball knock, was out as the third wicket at the total of 8 when a Tim de Leede delivery rose sharply to hit his gloves before going to the wicket-keeper. It was left to Yuvraj and Mongia to pull out a rescue act and the duo did reasonably well, putting on 55 runs for the sixth wicket in the highest partnership of the innings. But it was not smooth sailing for the two as Holland bowlers maintained a disciplined line and length and were aided by outstanding performance by their fielders. Holland was never in the chase, losing its wickets at quick intervals right from the start, even though van Bunge held his end up. Holland was helped by a number of extras conceded by the bowlers, mainly by Zaheer Khan who sent down as many as nine wides, four in an over.
In the end, the 28 extras were the second highest contributor to Holland's total. Having reduced Holland to 54 for seven in the 22nd over, it seemed India had all but finished its job. But Edgar Schiferli (13) and Jeroen Smits put up defiant partnerships with van Bunge to take their team close to maintaining its record of having never been bowled out in a World Cup match. Van Bunge added 28 runs for the eighth wicket with Schiferli and 49 for the ninth with Smits which took Holland past the 100-run mark. Though Holland never threatened the Indian total, the two partnerships frustrated the Indian bowlers to no ends.