One day in Indore...

For a long time, Virender Sehwag's fans had discussed what their hero was capable of scoring if he ever batted through an innings. A double century was expected and Sehwag knew it well. Rakesh Rao reports.

It was a more than just a knock. It was a knockout punch. And the West Indians knew what hit them. In short, Virender Sehwag's savage hitting ended in a world record 219, saw India post its highest one-day total of 418 for five and resulted in a series-clinching victory.

The emphatic 153-run triumph also proved that when the stronger of the two teams plays to its potential, the difference shows. In the preceding three games, West Indies had managed to run India close in the first two and stayed in the series by clinching the third. If the upbeat West Indians once again came to fight, Sehwag just did not let them. For the fourth successive time in the series, the coin did not obey Darren Sammy's command but Sehwag, for a change, chose to bat.

Once the action unfolded at Indore's Holkar Stadium, it became increasingly clear that India had plans to bat the opposition out of contention on a batting beauty. Sehwag, with left-handers Gautam Gambhir and Suresh Raina for company by turns, held the centre-stage and dominated the attack like never before.

Sehwag scoring a double-century in one-day internationals was expected for a long time. But it was Sachin Tendulkar who became the first man to reach the milestone against South Africa in February last year. In the World Cup match against Bangladesh in Dhaka earlier this year, Sehwag threatened Tendulkar's 200 not out before he was dismissed for his then career-best 175. At Indore, Sehwag was not to be denied. Though Tendulkar's double-ton came against a superior attack, Sehwag came good against those who had repeatedly got the better of him in the series.

By sheer coincidence, both double centuries came in Madhya Pradesh, both knocks contained 25 boundaries and helped India win by an identical 153 runs!

For a long time, Sehwag's fans had discussed what their hero was capable of scoring if he ever batted through an innings. A double century was expected and Sehwag knew it well. “I knew my fans were expecting me to score a double century in ODI. You need around 150 deliveries to score 200. And all this while, the bowlers will try to get you. Many great players have tried to score a double century but have not succeeded in their careers. I never expected to score 200. I think, it was a once in a life-time opportunity. I am happy that I could break the record of my role-model,” said Sehwag after India's victory in Indore.

During his innings that resembled a ‘highlight-package', Sehwag crossed the 8,000-run mark in ODIs. He hit the first ball faced from six of the seven bowlers to boundary or beyond. Sehwag hit first-ball boundaries off Rampaul, Russell and Samuels. The first-ball sixes were reserved for Narine, Sammy and Pollard. Roach may have escaped with a single but the over ended with Sehwag executing an ‘upper-cut' six over fine third man!

From the other end, Gambhir was relishing his return to the opening slot. He did outpace Sehwag in the initial phase of their 176-run stand with a string of boundaries. The Delhi pair stepped the scoring rate and soon the West Indies was made to feel the heat.

Gambhir, who scored a run-a-ball 67, was run-out following a misunderstanding with his senior partner. “It was unfortunate. It can happen only with someone you have a very good understanding. I've already apologised around 10 times to Gambhir,” Sehwag said later.

But Gambhir's absence was not felt. Raina also showed signs of regaining his form, rotated the strike and hit boundaries at regular intervals for a 44-ball 55. It took another run-out to separate Sehwag from Raina, but the total was well past 300. Later, Sehwag was fortunate to be dropped by Sammy at 170. “At that point, I knew God was with me,” said the Indian captain. When a tired Sehwag was finally out in his attempt to clear the long-off fence, almost every West Indies fielder ran up to him and shook hands.

Thereafter, the in-form duo of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli did their bit to ensure India reached its highest one-day score.

When the West Indies began the chase, none expected a miracle. Wickets fell at regular intervals, with debutant leg-spinner Rahul Sharma castling three frontline batsmen. Medium pacers Vinay Kumar and his Karnataka teammate A. Mithun gave away runs but spinner Ravindra Jadeja took three wickets as India closed in on victory.

However, Denesh Ramdin kept fighting and in the company of last man Sunil Narine, raised 64 runs. In the process, Ramdin reached 96 but was out attempting to reach his first-ever ODI century with a big hit off Raina.

An Indian victory was never in doubt once the top-order had fired. In fact, Sehwag's record-making knock had pinned the West Indies to the mat much before the last wicket was taken.

THE SCORES

India: G. Gambhir (run out) 67; V. Sehwag c (sub) Martin b Pollard 219; S. Raina (run out) 55; R. Jadeja c Rampaul b Russell 10; Rohit Sharma b Roach 27; V. Kohli (not out) 23; Parthiv Patel (not out) 3; Extras (lb-1, w-13) 14. Total (for five wkts. in 50 overs) 418.

Fall of wickets: 1-176, 2-316, 3-341, 4-376, 5-393.

West Indies bowling: Roach 10-1-88-1, Rampaul 9-0-66-0, Russell 7-0-63-1, Narine 6-0-46-0, Sammy 3-0-30-0, Pollard 7-0-65-1, Samuels 8-0-59-0.

West Indies: L. Simmons c Parthiv b Jadeja 36; K. Powell (run out) 7; M. Samuels b Rahul 33; D. Hyatt b Rahul 11; D. Ramdin c Rohit b Raina 96; K. Pollard b Rahul 3; A. Russell st. Parthiv b Raina 29; D. Sammy c Mithun b Ashwin 2; R. Rampaul c (sub) Tiwary b Jadeja 10; K. Roach c & b Jadeja 7; S. Narine (not out) 27; Extras (lb-2, w-2) 4. Total (in 49.2 overs): 265.

Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-63, 3-81, 4-90, 5-100, 6-140, 7-145, 8-168, 9-201.

India bowling: Vinay 4-0-34-0, Ashwin 10-0-59-1, Jadeja 10-2-34-3, Mithun 4-0-37-0, Rahul 10-0-43-3, Raina 6.2-0-17-2, Rohit 5-0-39-0.

Man of the Match: V. Sehwag.