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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

India beat Windies at Vizag: It’s entertainment, entertainment and entertainment…

India cranked up the thrill-o-metre in Vizag, demonstrating that when the elements sync they're ruthlessly entertaining and entertainingly ruthless.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Visakhapatnam | Updated: December 19, 2019 8:42:33 am
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KL Rahul stuck his fingers into the ear and shut the noise out after reaching his third ODI hundred. His opening partner, Rohit Sharma, scored his seventh century of the year. Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant wreaked havoc on the West Indies bowling in the slog overs. Iyer dismissed Shimron Hetmyer with a brilliant piece of fielding. Ravindra Jadeja bowled the ball of the match to flatten Roston Chase’s off stump. Kuldeep Yadav took a hat-trick – his second in ODIs – to suck the West Indies lower-middle-order dry. The heat was on, India were game. They were also proving to be world cricket’s most entertaining team. There wasn’t one dull moment in India’s series-levelling 107 runs win.

During at the innings break, some fans at the ACA-VDCA Stadium were rueing Virat Kohli’s golden duck. On a batting beauty, it was an anticlimax. India had 387 runs on the board after 50 overs, but the fans wanted to see a Kohli special. At the end, though, they had very little to complain about. Rohit and Rahul followed by Iyer and Pant treated the spectators to an exhibition of classy batsmanship and manic hitting.

Pant is at his best when he bats with an uncluttered mind, when he doesn’t eschew his natural aggression. The equation was in his favour on Wednesday. India already had reached to 292 in the 44th over, when the diminutive ‘keeper-batsman walked in. It was time to throw the kitchen sink and Pant showed how devastating he could be. Alzarri Joseph had been accounted for a couple of sixes to start with.

West Indies captain Kieron Pollard brought in his bowler of the series, Sheldon Cottrell, in the next over. Mayhem ensued. The first ball, a slower one, went over deep square leg. Pant survived an lbw appeal next ball and then hit three fours and a six in the last four deliveries. A 24-run over skyrocketed the run-rate.

Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul put on a 227-run opening stand for India in the 2nd ODI in Visakhapatnam on Wednesday. (AP Photo)

Iyer joined the party and decimated Chase, hitting four sixes and a four against the off-spinner. Thirty-one runs had been scored in that over, most runs in an over by India in their ODI history. The fourth wicket partnership between Iyer and Pant by then had reached 71 off 22 balls. It was where the game was taken away from the visitors.

Blitzy Pant, searing Iyer

Pant got out two balls later after making 39 off 16 deliveries. Cottrell had Iyer caught down the leg in the next over. Iyer’s 32-ball 53 oozed maturity. He played second fiddle while partnering Rohit before shifting to top gear with ridiculous ease. Iyer and Pant gave a glimpse to the future of the Indian batting, the talent it has at its disposal.

The carnage ensured India put on 127 runs in the last 10 overs. Par score was high on Vizag belter. Given the West Indies’ batting wherewithal, India needed to take their total past 350. A well-over-par score meant the Caribbeans had to play against scoreboard pressure. They eventually wilted.

Iyer and Pant built the ‘Manhattan’ on the foundation laid by Rohit and Rahul, who had a 227-run opening wicket partnership in 37 overs. India lost the toss and the two openers began cautiously.

Read | Kuldeep Yadav becomes first Indian to take two hat-tricks in international cricket

For the first 20 overs they were going around five runs per over before upping the ante. Rahul took three fours of a Joseph over to trigger the charge. The second boundary, a wristy flick past mid-wicket, was a showpiece.

Rohit wasn’t yet timing the ball to perfection. He was dropped on 70 off Chase, when Hetmyer running in from long-off couldn’t hold on to a skier. But as he got into the eighties, Rohit gradually started to impose himself on the West Indies bowlers. A four and six against the promising leg-spinner Khary Pierre helped.

Rahul reached his hundred with a four off Joseph and did the ear muffing. “I will let it stay a mystery,” he told the official broadcaster at the end of India’s innings. Shikhar Dhawan’s injury gave him an opportunity to open. He grabbed it. Rahul departed for a 104-ball 102. He would have felt gutted, given the touch he was in.

Rohit carries on

Rohit carried on. His 28th ODI hundred came in 107 balls. A glorious straight drive for a six against Jason Holder took him past 150, off 132 deliveries. It was his eighth 150-plus score in the 50-over format and he looked set for his fourth double hundred. But Cottrell removed him on 159 and gave a pat on Rohit’s shoulder. The India-West Indies matches are usually played in excellent spirit.

Rohit, adjudged the Man-of-the-Match, now tops the Circa 2019 ODI run-scoring chart, with 1,427 runs from 27 matches.

When West Indies batted, Deepak Chahar nicely set up Shai Hope in his first over. A second slip was brought on, a full outswinger had been bowled and Hope attempted a full-blooded cover drive.

Read | 31 runs in an over: Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant break Sachin Tendulkar-Ajay Jadeja’s 20-year-old record

The ball moved enough to take the outside edge; just that Rahul dropped a regulation catch at second slip. Hope later survived a stumping as well and went on to score 78. But the West Indies opener, now the second highest ODI run-getter in the current calendar year, wasn’t posing any serious threat.

From India’s perspective, Hetmyer had to be dismissed early and Iyer saved a certain four and threw at the non-striker’s end to Jadeja to effect a stunning run-out. But as Nicholas Pooran stepped on the gas and built a partnership with Hope, for a brief while the target looked achievable.

Mohammed Shami got the better of Pooran with a bouncer, the top edge going to Yadav at long-leg. The fast bowler dismissed Pollard next ball. West Indies’ chase was all but over.

Quick start, quicker finish

Yadav hastened the finish by bagging a hat-trick. Hope was caught on the edge of the boundary by Kohli. Holder was done in by a wrong’un, with Pant doing the stumping. And Joseph closed the face of the bat to another wrong’un to offer a catch to Kedar Jadhav at second slip. The chinaman bowler became the first Indian to claim two international hat-tricks. His previous one came against Australia at Eden Gardens two years ago.

India made one change to their playing XI, picking Shardul Thakur at the expense of Shivam Dube. But on this pitch, it was always going to be a batsman’s game. The hosts out-batted West Indies to win by 107 runs and square the series. The finisher, in Cuttack, thus is interestingly poised. But who would have thought that both the T20Is and ODIs would have a decider, given the gulf between the teams.

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