No Sunil Narine, no Chris Gayle, losses in the two practice games followed by a dispute between players and the board on the eve of the first match. When Dwayne Bravo’s letter to WICB mentioned the West Indies team morale was at “an all-time low”, no one would have doubted it. Still, the visitors somehow found a way to galvanise.
Marlon Samuels, playing his first ODI in seven months, led a strong West Indies batting effort in the series opener, scoring his sixth century – his second against India – to pose a tough challenge for the hosts. With Denesh Ramdin, who scored 61, Samuels added 165 in 23.1 overs for the fourth wicket – a West Indies record against India – to convert a solid start into an imposing total. The bowlers then extracted enough help from the pitch to dismantle India’s batting line-up ruthlessly. It could have been West Indies’ biggest win against India in terms of runs, but a vexing last-wicket stand of 42 between Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami prevented that.
Both Samuels and Ramdin had scored runs in the two practice games, but what they did not have in those fixtures was a strong start. Today, when the two got together, the scoreboard read 120 for 3. The Indian spinners had neither any purchase nor did they exert any control, and the batsmen built slowly, finding the odd boundary and rotating the strike to keep the run
It only got better from there. Samuels welcomed Amit Mishra, who struggled with his lines throughout the innings, with a couple of straight sixes in the 31st over, then reached his half-century in the 34th with another straight six, off Suresh Raina. Power was never an issue; Samuels found the distance when he wanted. What was noticeable was the number of singles he took to keep his strike-rate around 100 through his innings.
Ramdin took over from Samuels during the batting Powerplay, smashing a Shami full-toss over the cover boundary and helping West Indies swell their score by 16 in that over. At the other end, fielders watched as Samuels’ powerful cuts pinged the boundary. That India’s bowlers were losing control became apparent in the 40th over as Jadeja gave away 10 extra runs through leg-side wides. Fifty-two runs came in the Powerplay and by the end of it, West Indies’ run rate had moved to six an over. Samuels reached his century with a calm dab down the ground and although West Indies lost a bit of momentum due to quick wickets, Samuels carried on with precision violence to finish unbeaten on 126.
The target of 322 would not have affected India at the outset of the chase; they have been the most-successful side chasing anything above 300. The home side started confidently as both Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane picked up boundaries. As the team approached 50, Dhawan was guilty of not responding to Rahane’s call for a second and both batsmen ended up at the same end, resulting in Rahane’s dismissal. Virat Kohli followed in the next over, edging one to first slip in a manner reminiscent of his days in England. But the slide was confirmed when Raina, who stroked an unbeaten century in the Champions League T20 final last week, played on against his Chennai Super Kings teammate Dwayne Bravo.
The West Indies bowlers had been wayward to start with, but gathered themselves as the pitch quickened up. Taylor found pace, the medium pacers found movement and the spinners found right lengths. India’s batsmen appeared all at sea, a bit like their spinners and fielders in the first innings. At the toss, Dhoni had said he was clear on the spinners for the World Cup, but wanted the seamers to settle. However, it was the spinners who failed to apply pressure today and ended up with a combined tally of 22-0-144-2. With a maximum of nine games remaining before the World Cup, India, the defending champions, have a few chinks to mend.
rate above five at the 30-over mark.