Kochi: Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli continued their prolific runs to set up India’s chase with effortless half-centuries after India’s spinners, led by Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina, had taken eight wickets to bowl West Indies out for a below-par total in Kochi.
Shikhar Dhawan was caught behind off a rising Jason Holder delivery in the fourth over, but Rohit and Kohli were unfazed by the dual nature of the pitch, and kept scoring freely throughout their 133-run partnership in 21.4 overs.
It was Kohli who did the bulk of the scoring in the first 10 overs, hitting five boundaries against Rohit’s one. But as soon as Sunil Narine was introduced in the 11th over, Rohit took over the role of aggressor. The next seven hits to the boundary came from Rohit’s bat, as he used a wide array of shots – from powerful slog-sweeps to deft late-cuts – to zoom past Kohli. During the course of his innings, he went past Misbah-ul-Haq to become the leading run-scorer in 2013, but just when a century looked certain, he pulled one straight to deep midwicket to be dismissed for 72, with his tally of international runs since October standing on 859.
Kohli had been happy to turn over the strike to Rohit during their partnership, but he switched gears as a struggling Yuvraj Singh – not Raina – joined him in the middle. A couple of powerful pulls were unleashed against the fast bowlers – the second one making him the joint-fastest to reach 5000 ODI runs along with Viv Richards, in 114 innings. But just like Rohit, he too was dismissed when a hundred appeared for the taking.
India needed 20 runs at that stage off 18.4 overs, which despite a brief flutter, was not enough for the West Indies to defend. Apart from Rohit and Kohli, none of the batsmen from either team found it easy to bat.
For Indian bowlers though, the Kochi pitch brought a respite, soothing the wounds they endured during the series against Australia last month, as they finally exerted some control over the batsmen.
West Indies had recovered from the loss of Chris Gayle in the first over to get to 63 for 1 after ten overs when spin was introduced. Jadeja, who had been left out of the Tests to nurse his injured shoulder, took only four balls to make an impact. Johnson Charles, trying to whip a flighted delivery to the leg side, got a leading edge towards Jadeja, who dived full length to his left to pull off a one-handed blinder.
That the ball had stopped a touch on the batsman was an indication for MS Dhoni to introduce spin at both ends. Raina didn’t have to wait for long either. His eighth delivery barely bounced, hitting the base of the middle stump to dismiss a well-set Marlon Samuels.
Raina added two more wickets – Lendl Simmons was adjudged lbw to one which was probably spinning down the leg side while Narsingh Deonarine had himself to blame for playing across the line to a straighter one – and ended up with his best ODI figures of 10-1-34-3.
Darren Bravo, though, fought back with 59 off 77 deliveries. He manoeuvered the strike around in company of Simmons – both adding 65 for the fourth wicket – while being severe on anything that was pitched up. Twice, he hit flighted deliveries from Jadeja into the stands. However, he too was dismissed by one that stayed low from Mohammed Shami during the Powerplay. His dismissal signaled the end of resistance from West Indies as the rest of the batsmen could only manage 28 more runs. Jadeja finished with three wickets that also propped him up to the top of the ODI wicket-takers’ charts this year.
Spin was thought to be a factor at the start of the match because of the presence of cracks on the pitch. West Indies chose to bat, hoping to build the pressure in a format they are more comfortable with.
The change to coloured clothing was supposed to bring relief for Gayle, who had endured a difficult time in the Test series with a top score of 35. But he didn’t give himself a chance to settle. He dabbed the second delivery of the match towards the non-striker and called straightaway for a risky single. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has dismissed Gayle four times this year already, sprinted to his right, swiveled and threw down the stumps at the non-striker’s end, catching Gayle well short.
But as Gayle tried to make his ground, he took a tumble and injured his hamstring that is likely to keep him out for up to four weeks.
India 212 for 4 (Kohli 86, Rohit 72) beat West Indies 211 (Darren Bravo 59, Raina 3-34, Jadeja 3-37) by six wickets