Rohit Sharma’s Diwali present to the nation

Riding on the back of a special Rohit century, India defeated Windies by 71 runs in Lucknow to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the 3-match T20I series.

Windies skipper Carlos Brathwaite won the toss and opted to bowl first in Lucknow.

On the eve of Diwali and in front of a jam-packed crowd in Lucknow’s Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee International Cricket Stadium, Rohit Sharma played out Oshane Thomas’ first over as maiden. In fact, he and Shikhar Dhawan began very cautiously and managed only 11 runs off the first 3 overs.

The tide turned however in the fourth over when Rohit welcomed spinner Khary Pierre with a delightful boundary over mid-wicket. Thus began the Rohit show!

Dhawan on the other end also found his groove and started batting with freedom. From 11 in 3 overs to 49 in 6, the Indian openers made the most of the Powerplay. En-route, Rohit also surpassed Virat Kohli to become India’s leading run-getter in T20Is.

The carnage continued after the powerplay too as India cruised to 107 runs in 13 overs. Rohit Sharma brought up his half-century and looked in ominous form. If he was classy till then, he became brutal after that, as far as Windies were concerned. He dispatched Fabian Allen for 2 back-to-back sixes over mid-wicket in the 14th over but the left-arm spinner managed to finish the over on a high as Dhawan was dismissed on the last ball of the over.

The move of promoting Rishab Pant up in the batting order didn’t pay off as he was dismissed for 5. Between all this, the Rohit onslaught continued as he tormented the opposition with delightful strokes all around the massive cricket stadium and kept the crowd entertained.

The well-set skipper was joined by KL Rahul in the middle and the duo accumulated 21 runs off Carlos Brathwaite in the 18th over. It wasn’t over for the Windies skipper though who faced the wrath of Rohit’s willow in the final over of the innings too who notched up his 4th T20I century with a cheeky scoop over the short fine leg fielder and etched his name in the record books.

The crowd at Lucknow was on its feet and while the country celebrated Diwali off the field, Rohit’s sublime hitting ensured that there were plenty of fireworks on it too.
The Windies openers, Shai Hope and Denesh Ramdin, had their work cut out and it would need a special effort from the visitors to chase down the target of 196 against a high-quality bowling attack.

The first breakthrough came soon as Khaleel Ahmed’s short of a length delivery rattled Shai Hope’s off stump in the second over. In his third over of the spell, the young left arm pacer dismissed the big-hitting Hetmyer for 15 as Windies ended the powerplay at 39/2.

Once the powerplay ended, spinners took the charge and Kuldeep Yadav dismissed two Windies batsmen in the eighth over to open the floodgates. Suddenly, they were 52/4 as Pollard joined Ramdin in the middle.

The runs had dried up and the required run rate kept increasing. A false shot was around the corner and it came when Pollard attempted a pull shot off Bumrah’s delivery but only managed to hit it high up in the air, which the bowler easily caught.

The Windies lost two wickets in an over again in the 14th over when first, Bhuvneshwar Kumar dismissed Ramdin for 10 and then, Krunal Pandya’s fabulous throw sent Fabian Allen back in the hut. Windies were reeling for 88/7.

The required run rate continued to soar and while the Windies did score 19 runs off Kuldeep Yadav in the 18th over, they were left well short of the target at the end of 20 overs as India won the game by 71 runs.

It was a day which belonged to Rohit Sharma. After his historic performance with the bat, he performed admirably in the field and took three good catches apart from winning his tenth game as captain.

The final game of the series will be played at Chennai on Sunday, November 11.