A combined effort by India’s lower middle order and three wickets from debutant Navdeep Saini saw their side sneak home by four wickets in the opening T20I of their series against West Indies.
Having won the toss, Indian skipper Virat Kohli elected to insert West Indies in to bat. He was rewarded instantly as both West Indian openers were removed without scoring as Washington Sundar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar each picked up an early wicket.
Nicholas Pooran, fresh from a breakout ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, was joined by T20 superstar Kieron Pollard at the crease. Pooran played nicely for his 20 before Saini extracted a top edge from his blade for Rishabh Pant to take behind the stumps to claim the seamer’s first international wicket.
Other than Pollard who finished on 49 – his third highest T20I score – no other Windies player made it to double figures. Saini picked up Shimron Hetmyer first ball, while Khaleel Ahmed, Krunal Pandya and Ravi Jadeja each picked up a wicket. Saini was the pick of the bowlers finishing with 3/17 from his four overs - including a wicket maiden in the 20th - as West Indies crawled to the end of their innings on 95/9.
Tasked with defending 95, West Indies went about the mission admirably. Sheldon Cottrell trapped a fit-again Shikhar Dhawan lbw for a seven-ball one to leave India 4/1 after two overs. India’s other two top-order titans, Kohli and Rohit Sharma, proceeded to steady the ship. At 32/1 in the seventh over India were at ease. Enter, Sunil Narine. He snared Sharma and Pant in consecutive balls to throw the game wide open.
While none of India’s middle-order stuck around for too long, they each, Pant aside, made contributions that collectively kept them in control of the affair. With 16 balls to spare, Jadeja and Sundar took their side over the line to give them a 1-0 lead in the series as the impressive Saini deservedly took home the Player of the Match award.
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