“Appa, who will hit the most number of sixes tonight? I want Carlos Brathwaite to hit four sixes again, like they say in the television promo,” a young Team India fan asked his father while waiting in the hospitality box queue.
For West Indies and India, the inconsequential third T20I seemed like a mix of pride and formality, but the six-wicket Indian victory lit up the big Sunday for the cricket-starved people at the M.A Chidambaram Stadium — hosting its second T20I in six years — in Chennai.
Chasing 182 for a win, the Rohit Sharma-led side — even after landing a few hours before the game — didn’t look tired. Though Rohit (4, 6b, 1*4) had an early departure, Shikhar Dhawan (92, 62b, 10 *4, 2*6) raised his deputy collar to help India complete the clean sweep in the three-match series.
After Keemo Paul got rid of Rohit in the third over, in came K.L Rahul. He started with an aggressive intent but the outrage — four fours for his 10-ball 17 — barely lasted 15 minutes.
Speedster Oshane Thomas stole an edge off Rahul and Ramdin doesn’t drop many behind the stumps.
After pausing India at 45/2 inside the PowerPlay overs (32 balls to be precise), Windies had a slim chance. But it was a Dhawan day.
The senior pro also had support from youngster Rishabh Pant (58, 38b, 5*4, 3*6) who registered his maiden T20I half-century.
Dhawan upped his game in the fourth over when he smashed Brathwaite for three boundaries — one cleared the infield, the other over mid-off and a chip over midwicket.
At one point, the Windies bowlers perhaps wished there was a right-hander in the ring. None of their length or angle worked against the left-handers from Delhi.
As soon as Pant swept Kieron Pollard over deep mid-wicket for a six, one could gauge that India was on the prowl. Though beaten by pace, Pant’s powerful bat swing had the upper hand and he reached his 50 in 29 balls.
The duo stitched an 80-ball 130 run-stand before Paul cleaned up Pant.
Dhawan’s dismissal in the second-last ball of the Indian innings injected a bit of thrill in the otherwise one-sided game, but Manish Pandey scored the winning run off Fabien Allen in the last ball.
Among the Windies bowlers, Paul (2/32) stood out.
Earlier, electing to bat, Windies’ aim to reach for the stars was imminent from the colourful strokeplay of the openers.
Shimron Hetmyer (26, 21b, 4*4, 1*6) and Shai Hope (24, 22b, 3*4, 1*6) stitched a 51-run opening stand inside the PowerPlay — a first in this series — to provide the much needed electric start.
Square leg boundary, point, over fine leg — with the fielder inside the circle — Hope and Hetmyer clearly utilised the four-day break to compose the shots in their heads. The move looked calculated.
India’s premier speedster Bhuvneshwar Kumar didn’t have a great day in office. He conceded nine off his first and leaked 30 off his remaining three.
Krunal Pandya, on the other side, received similar treatment from the dynamic Windies duo. The slow left-arm spinner conceded 13 off his first over.
In the last ball of the ninth over, Yuzvendra Chahal tested Hope’s resistance and the right-hander mistimed a slog-sweep. Local boy Washington Sundar, playing his first game, caught him at deep mid-wicket.
Once Denesh Ramdin (15, 15b, 1*6) chopped a Sundar delivery on to his stumps — with Windies at 94 for the loss of three wickets — it seemed India is going to hold the tourist by the neck and go for the kill. But Darren Bravo and Nicholas Pooran had different plans.
Returning to the shortest format after four years, Bravo stuck to basics, found the occasional boundary and pulled the A game out of youngster Pooran.
Having come up through the Caribbean Premier League and Super50 Cup ranks, Pooran turned the clock backwards and restored Windies’ T20 pedigree.
The 23-year-old started his assault with two consecutive sixes — one over long on and the other, over long off — in Kumar’s third over.
The carnage continued till the end of the Windies innings as the duo punished K. Khaleel Ahmed for 23 runs to get Windies to 181 for the loss of three wickets in an unbeaten 87-run stand in 7.1 overs.
Chahal was the pick among the Indian bowlers who returned with handsome figures of 2/28 at an economy rate of 7.00 — the lowest compared to his spin and pace colleagues.
But all is not lost for the Windies. Ahead of the tour of Bangladesh, a month-long tour in India is not a bad tutorial for subcontinent challenges.
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