Windies defend 189, keep series alive

With a loss away from a series defeat, West Indies’ objectives were clear going into the fourth ODI. It was a do-or-die situation for their players who had been under-performing to say the least, in the previous matches. However, when the chips were down, even mid-way through the fourth ODI, their bowlers stepped up and cushioned their batting department’s rough edges by stealing a 11-run victory by bowling the mighty Indians out for 178. Jason Holder led by example, as he took a match-winning five-wicket haul to keep West Indies’ hopes of squaring the series still alive.

Once again, weather decided to take centre-stage, delaying the start of the fourth ODI. The toss happened on time, but moments later, there was some heavy rain and it caused a delay. West Indies brought Alzarri Joseph in for Miguel Cummins, whereas the Indian team made three changes. Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami came in for Yuvraj Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The pacer made his first appearance in ODIs since the 2015 World Cup semi-final in Australia.

The hosts got off to a cautious start keeping the Indian bowlers, who kept it tight, at bay. Umesh Yadav conceded his first run off the bat in his third over, as the three runs previously conceded by him were wides. Once they got into the groove, the opening pair of Evin Lewis and Kyle Hope played some confident-looking shots and brought up their 50-run stand. However, it was broken when Hardik Pandya got the breakthrough. when he dismissed Kyle Hope – for the second time in as many games. It was a length delivery by the all-rounder, and Hope went for a big shot. He paid the price, as he sliced it towards sweeper cover. Shami on the other hand, continued to keep it tight on his return. Evin Lewis started playing some aggressive shots but his stay was cut short when Kuldeep Yadav got his wicket in his very first over. The hosts tried to build another partnership, but it wasn’t meant to be. Roston Chase, who was looking good got out to a googly by Kuldeep Yadav, yet again. He totally misread the delivery and was castled by the chinaman.

Shai Hope then got out to Hardik Pandya once again and the seamer dismissed the Hope brothers for the second consecutive time in this series. Shai tried to steer a cross-seamer from Hardik to third man, but nicked the ball and Dhoni took a smart catch away to his right. West Indies continued their habit of losing wickets at regular intervals in the series.

Stitching a partnership was the need of the hour, but West Indies were struggling to string one. Umesh Yadav then dismissed the skipper, Jason Holder, who was caught down the leg side. The umpire didn’t hesitate to raise the finger and sent Holder back to the dressing room with the hosts five down already. There was a bit of relief for West Indies in the 39th over when a caught behind appeal off Kuldeep Yadav’s bowling went India’s way, but Powell decided to take the review. The decision went in his favour as there was no edge, and it was his pad that brushed the ball. Hawk Eye showed the ball spinning and bouncing over the leg stump giving Powell a green signal to carry on. He didn’t last long though, as Umesh Yadav sent him back packing to leave West Indies reeling.

The lower middle order had a tough task at hand and they couldn’t handle the pressure. Hardik Pandya picked up his third wicket removing the near-set batsman, Jason Mohammed for 20. Mohammed tried to cut a short and wide delivery, but played it straight to the safe hands of Jadeja at point. Devendra Bishoo and Ashley Nurse tried their best to hang around in a bid to take the team beyond the 200-run mark. Umesh Yadav had other plans though, as he took a brilliant catch off his own bowling. It was a length delivery where Nurse tried to whip it across but it went off an edge and off the helmet grille. On his follow-through, Yadav dived to his right and took a screamer to complete the catch.

The bowling wasn’t the only thing which was terrific by the Indian team. Jadeja showed his prowess when he scored a direct hit at the non-striker’s end. The ball was played to point, where Jadeja collected it, aimed at the non-striker’s end and scored a direct hit to dismiss Devendra Bishoo. The last pair managed to play out the 50 overs and the hosts amassed just 189/9 in the allotted number of overs.

It seemed like a relatively easy chase for the Indian batsmen. 190 was no tough target by any stretch of imagination, and the West Indies bowlers had their tasks cut out. India lost Dhawan early, yet again. On the first ball of the third over, he flicked the ball off the middle, but in the air and straight to Holder at mid-wicket. Rahane made the most of his immaculate form by striking a few boundaries to gain some momentum in the innings.

Kohli was tested by a short delivery sent down by his counterpart, Jason Holder. The Indian skipper went for the pull and top edged the ball. It skied right up and went nowhere and was pouched by the wicket-keeper. Jason Holder got rid of Kohli for the second consecutive time in the series. India were in a spot of bother, early on in the chase. Dinesh Karthik, who was playing his first ODI since the Asia Cup in 2014, joined Rahane.

Jason Mohammed dropped a simple chance offered by Rahane at square leg. Rahane couldn’t keeo his flick down, but Mohammed couldn’t hold on to the catch, dropping the opener on 22. Karthik finally got off the mark on the 14th delivery he faced, and his stay at the crease wasn’t easy by any stretch of imagination. The short ball did the trick for Joseph and a top edge resulted in Karthik’s downfall for a 19-ball 2.

Dhoni and Rahane were united once again, after their valuable half-century stand in the previous ODI. The two off them saw off some tight bowling and picked up singles whenever the opportunity presented itself. Dhoni wasn’t given any freebies this time around and he had to grind his way through. Rahane got to his fourth consecutive fifty-plus score in the series, in the 26th over. The two batsmen were playing smart cricket and ensured that the partnership kept building.

The West Indian spinners had a tight grip on the run-rate and bowled very accurately. At times, even the singles were hard to come by. Holder’s field placings were better than what he had in the past few games. There seemed to be a plan in place in the Windies camp, and the body language seemed different too.

In extraordinary circumstances, Rahane fell prey to Bishoo in the 31st over, on 60. He went to sweep the leggie, but missed and the ball brushed his hip before being caught by Shai Hope. The Windies appealed hard and the umpire agreed. Rahane wasn’t too convinced and opted for the review. Replays on the snickometer showed a faint edge, that too off the toe-end of the bat. The umpire’s decision stayed and Rahane had to depart.

Jadhav joined the grind, but couldn’t stick around for longer than 14 balls. The dismissal was one you would usually witness during a Test match. The ball took the inside edge of Jadhav’s bat, hit his pad and lobbed up. The keeper stepped forward to complete the catch and India had now lost half their side. Hardik Pandya came in to join the former Indian skipper.

Pandya got his first boundary with a late decision to put bat to ball and it ended up being some kind of a ramp that went past the keeper to the fence. Pandya and Dhoni ran well between the wickets and kept the scoreboard ticking over. In the 44th over, with the team needing nearly eight runs an over on this slowish surface, the pair decided to cut loose. Dhoni tickled a poor delivery down the leg side, with a glance to the fine leg fence. Pandya brought out the slog sweep in the same over and managed to clear the fielder at deep mid-wicket, by a few metres.

With 31 runs needed off 30 balls and with 5 wickets in hand, the pendulum seemed to be swinging India’s way at this juncture of the game. Jason Holder brought himself on, not fazed by the fact that he was drilled for runs in the death overs by Dhoni and co. in the previous game. Pandya was bowled off a leg-stump yorker on the first delivery of Holder’s spell. Jadeja joined Dhoni and didn’t waste time in getting going. However, it was Holder again, who got Jadeja playing a big shot when singles should have done the job for India. He holed out at long on, much to the dismay of the Indian fans.

The game was getting tighter and tougher for India with each delivery. India needed 16 to win off 12 balls. Williams was given the responsibility of bowling the penultimate over of the innings. He conceded just two runs off his first five deliveries and Dhoni had one ball to face in the over. The equation stood at 14 off 7 balls, Dhoni had to get a big shot to bring the game back into balance. He did go for a mighty hit, but couldn’t get the required elevation. He was caught by Joseph at long on.

India’s hopes dimmed as they needed 14 to win off the final over, with the lower order in the middle. Holder readied himself to bowl the final over and picked up Umesh Yadav’s wicket off the first delivery. The yorker found the stumps, as Yadav looked to slog the ball away, getting dismissed for a golden duck. Shami and Kuldeep managed one run each off the next two deliveries. India’s chances were bleak with Holder finding the Yorkers and just the sole wicket in hand. Shami swung the fourth ball, a full toss, hard but managed to find the cover fielding. India got bowled out for 178, giving West Indies their first win of the series.

While the Windies bowled exceptionally, especially in the death overs, their problems in the batting department are far from over. Had it not been for disciplined bowling, India would have got the series in their bag. The Windies spinners applied pressure on India’s middle order resulting in the hard-hitting Dhoni who scoring his slowest half-century in ODIs. The slow pitch in Antigua has tested batsmen from both sides and the bowlers had a good couple of games. That could change in Jamaica, the venue for the final ODI which will decide the fate of the series too. The series is still alive and West Indies can square it at 2-2, but they will have to put in another sturdy performance as India will come hard at them. The fifth ODI will be played at Sabina Park, in Jamaica on 6th July.

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