WI falter, Kohli canters in chase

Things returned to normal for the Indian Cricket Team. The only thing they have consistently lost in this series is the toss; Kohli couldn’t win it even once. However, their cricket did the talking in the decider with the bowling, fielding (for most of the innings), and the batting dominated West Indies’. The skipper, Virat Kohli got back to his best, striking a commanding century that guided India to the series victory.

The West Indies skipper, Jason Holder won the toss yet again and Virat Kohli became the fourth Indian skipper in ODIs to lose all 5 tosses in a bilateral series. Both the teams were unchanged from the last game. It looked like India might hand Rishabh Pant his debut or bring in Ravichandran Ashwin for Ravindra Jadeja, but there were no changes after the loss in the fourth ODI.

Evin Lewis and Shai Hope got off to a decent start, but Hardik Pandya got the breakthrough for India. It was Evin Lewis this time and not any of the Hope brothers for a change. Lewis chipped the ball straight to mid-off after a slow start. India tried to apply more pressure, but Kyle Hope cut loose and started scoring runs in boundaries. It was one too many for him eventually, as he missed out on his fifty and got out to Umesh Yadav. He played a premeditated pull shot but straight to Shikhar Dhawan at mid-wicket. He looked gutted as he missed out on a well-deserved fifty. Roston Chase followed after being adjudged LBW, first ball but he opted for a review. Replays confirmed three reds, which meant that he had to walk back. Last year at the same venue Roston Chase batted on the 5th day to draw a Test match against India, and today he was dismissed for a golden duck. As they say – cricket is a great leveller.

Jason Mohammed looked promising and was building a partnership with Shai Hope, but it didn’t last long. Kedar Jadhav, the man with the golden arm was bowling with India searching for a breakthrough. It was a short ball and Mohammed smacked it back to the bowler of all places on the field. India continued to keep it tight with the ball after that. Shai Hope saw all this happening from the other end, but was struggling to rotate the strike. Jason Holder was dropped on 2, as his edge brushed off Dhoni’s pads. It was a tough chance, but it would have given Jadhav his second wicket. The West Indies skipper then played some ambitious shots to keep the scoreboard ticking. However, India continued to apply pressure, while Shai Hope battled and crawled his way to a gritty fifty, his second of the series.

Jason Holder went for one big shot too many and succumbed to a good running catch by Shikhar Dhawan at long on. It was muscled quite hard near the rope, but the southpaw took a good catch to dismiss the West Indies skipper. Shai Hope didn’t last long after that, as he was also a victim of a brilliant catch by the other Indian opener. He pulled a length delivery and Ajinkya Rahane kept his eyes on the ball from deep square leg, ran to his left and took a terrific catch to dismiss the set batsman. Ashley Nurse then was out for a duck as Mohammed Shami picked up his third wicket.

There was another chance which was put down by Dhoni when he fumbled in a bid to take an easy catch by his standards. Kuldeep Yadav was the unlucky bowler this time while Devendra Bishoo was the lucky batsman who tried to punch but only managed an edge. His stay was cut short by Shami though, as he tried to run the ball down to third man, but gave an easy catch to Dhoni and the pacer had his fourth wicket of the game. Rovman Powell’s late cameo towards the end somehow took West Indies beyond the 200-run mark. He was dismissed by Umesh Yadav and the West Indian batsmen only managed 205 runs on the board. Shami and Umesh Yadav shared 7 wickets between them.

Shikhar Dhawan had a good start, but an early end to his innings in the chase. He slashed a delivery which had width written all over it, to the fence and got his innings going. Two balls later, he misjudged a good length delivery to be one where he could bring out a flowing drive, but ended up checking the drive instead and presented a simple catch at short cover. Ajinkya Rahane was then dropped in the fourth over by Bishoo. The opportunity was on the tougher side, but Bishoo’s dive gave him the liberty to get to the ball with both hands before he spilled it.

Rahane and Kohli stitched a handy stand, ensuring that there was no influx of wickets right at the top. Rahane was severe on the Wndies skipper, Hoolder in the sixth over. He began the over with a picturesque glance to the fine leg fence. This was followed by a pristine drive through cover and Rahane finished the over with a classical square cut. Kohli went on to do something similar in the next over, by Joseph. The Indian skipper played a gorgeous, punchy drive past Joseph to begin proceedings in the over. On the fourth ball of the over, Joseph dragged his length short and Kohli was quick on the ball as he swivelled and pulled the ball to the fence. The array of boundaries had eased whatever early, chasing pressure was there on the two batsmen.

At the end of 10 overs, India were 50/1. Kohli and Rahane found the boundary every now and then, but they concentrated on running between the wickets too. The duo milked the West Indian bowlers effectively. Rahane had slowed down during the latter half of his innings, which ended on 39. He missed out on scoring his fifth consecutive 50-plus score. He played all around a straightish delivery and missed the flick. The ball struck him in front and got the umpire working his arm to send him back.
In walked Dinesh Karthik, who had a rather forgetful outing in his return to ODI cricket, during the fourth game. Karthik’s nerves were eased when he dispatched a short ball by Bishoo to the cover fence. Kohli got to his half-century with one of his signature cover drives against spinners. Nurse was at the receiving end as he dished out a perfect half-volley for Kohli to latch on to. This was Kohli’s 44th and his 10th against the Windies.

Karthik was getting into the thick of things, as he danced down the track and played an impeccable, inside-out drive off Nurse. He found the boundary with ease. Boundaries became a common sight as India needed under 70 runs to seal the game and the series. Kohli and Karthik picked up a boundary each off Nurse to take the score beyond 150. The skipper got into the 90s with a daunting stroke off Williams. He stood tall to a shortish delivery and muscled it with a beautiful flourish of the bat, through cover. He got to his century in the 35th over. Kohli received a juicy half-volley on middle and he whipped the ball with his wrists to the fence to bring up his 28th century. He now owns the record for the most ODI tons in a chase. This was his 18th and he went past Sachin Tendulkar’s 17.

Victory wasn’t too far away for India as the West Indies back-tracked on their body language. Kohli and Karthik got closer to the target with a few singles. Kohli decided to finish the game off in style though. He pelted a flighted delivery by Chase with a strong bottom-handed flick that sailed over the long on fence. India cantered to their third win of the series.

India always looked the stronger of the two sides throughout the series. The defeat in the fourth ODI was perhaps an aberration, but the Windies gave themselves some hope after the win that kept the series alive and brought its fate into the final one in Jamaica. Kohli, who was tested and sought out with the short ball in this series, ended the campaign with the final laugh by scoring a match-winning century. However, a lot of appreciation needs to be handed to the Indian bowlers, especially the quicks. Mohammed Shami made his return in the previous ODI and bagged four wickets in the decider. Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were equally adept through the series. The Indian spinners have their tales to tell too. Kuldeep Yadav has had a very fruitful debut series and he’ll take back fond memories from here. All in all, India played very well as a team and the players who were given opportunities seized it and made the most of it. One can say that it was a deserving series victory for Team India.

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