India edged past the West Indies by a five-wickets and 13 balls to spare at the Eden Gardens on Sunday. Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav wreaked havoc with the ball with figures of 3/13 and this effort was followed up by Dinesh Karthik who scored a patient yet match–winning 31* to send India 1-0 up in the three-match series.
The proceedings got underway with former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin ringing the bell at the stadium.
Rohit Sharma’s decision of bowling first was well-backed by his bowlers who were absolutely clinical on the night, as they restricted the Windies to just 109/8.
Umesh Yadav provided India with the breakthrough when he had wicket-keeper batsman Denesh Ramdin caught behind. The in-form Shai Hope, who had struck 3 fours en route to his 14 runs was the next one to fall when he was involved in a comical mix-up with non-striker Shimron Hetmyer as both batsmen were caught stranded at one end with Manish Pandey whipping the bails in no time.
But the experience of Kieron Pollard and Darren Bravo came to the Windies’ rescue as they stitched a 22-run stand in a bid to check the batting slump. For a brief period of time, they executed that role pretty well, working the ball in the gaps for the ones and twos and looking to respect the good deliveries. Pollard broke free when he hit debutant Krunal Pandya over long-on for the first six of the match but perished while trying to repeat the same shot few overs later. This time, Pandya, Pollard’s IPL teammate had the last laugh as the burly West Indian found Manish Pandey at the boundary. Having got his maiden wicket in T20Is and international cricket on a whole, Pandya turned on the screws and started to bowl with much more confidence resulting in greater accuracy.
Bravo too was dismissed in a similar manner when he tried to hit Kuldeep for a maximum and the catch was taken by Shikhar Dhawan, who pulled off his trademark celebratory pose by thumping his thigh as India were well and truly in control of the match. There was some late resurgence though from the visitors’ through Fabian Allen (27 off 20 balls) and Keemo Paul (15 off 13 balls) as the Windies could eventually manage just 109 runs. Debutant Khaleel Ahmed impressed with his control and was rewarded with a wicket as well.
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However, India were made to fight for the runs as Oshane Thomas–like he did in the ODIs–got his team off to a good start as he sent back the captain in the first over itself. Rohit, who had hit a four to make a statement early on in the opening over, found one ball nipping back in and catching the edge of his bat as the catch was safely pouched by Denesh Ramdin behind the stumps. Shikhar Dhawan, who has had his share of his troubles against Thomas was clean bowled when the tall Caribbean figure found a big gap between his bat and pad.
The ball just uprooted the middle stick much to his joy and Dhawan’s agony as West Indies were slowly clawing back into the match. KL Rahul, who looked to steady the innings with a resistant 22-ball 16 fell while pulling Brathwaite on the leg-side with Bravo pocketing a neat catch. Rishabh Pant, in a bid to make a mark with the willow too, perished soon when he skied one of Brathwaite’s bowling as it was Bravo again who took a good catch. India needed one steady partnership and they got it through Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey as the duo put on 38 runs off 45 balls before the latter offered a simple catch to debutant offie Khary Pierre.
Karthik (31*) nonetheless held fort at the other end and stitched 27 runs with Krunal Pandya who went on to hit the winning runs with 13 balls to spare.
Image credit- Hindustan Times