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West Indies prevails in thriller

Johnson, Roach to the fore as India battles hard but comes out second best in defence of modest total
Johnson Charles, shedding his turgid display of the previous match, destroyed the Indian bowling on his way to an impressive 97 as the West Indies pulled off its second straight win in the tri-nationl tournament, a thrilling one-wicket victory, at Sabina Park on Sunday (June 30).  

West Indies had done extremely well to restrict India to a manageable 229 for seven, but made heavy weather of the chase despite Charles’s pyrotechnics and his crucial associations with the two Darrens, Bravo and Sammy. R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma procured late breakthroughs to set up a tense finish but the last-wicket partnership of Tino Best and Kemar Roach, the birthday boy, took the team over the line with 14 deliveries to spare as West Indies reached 230 for nine.  

If India was to mount any defence of their modest total, it needed to get Chris Gayle early. Gayle surpassed Desmond Haynes to become the third highest run-getter for West Indies in One-Day Internationals but India, led by Virat Kohli after Mahendra Singh Dhoni sustained a hamstring pull while batting, struck straightaway as Gayle was caught at short cover by Suresh Raina off Umesh.  

Three consecutive boundaries flowed from the bat of Charles, indicating that his struggles in the previous match were an aberration, but Yadav made another dent as he trapped Devon Smith leg before for a duck. West Indies descended further in to the hole when Marlon Samuels dragged Bhuvneshwar Kumar on to his stumps. A promising start had evaporated suddenly as West Indies slumped to 26 for three.  

Darren Bravo played cautiously even as Charles biffed three more boundaries and West Indies ended the mandatory Power Play at 44 for three. Kohli introduced spin in the form of Ravindra Jadeja but Bravo deposited him high over long-on and collected a boundary due to a misfield as well, the Jadeja experiment lasting just one over.  

Ashwin, introduced in the 15th over, turned one appreciably past Bravo’s blade but otherwise, Charles and Bravo were largely untroubled. Bravo brought up the 50-run stand as he flayed the errant Ishant over backward point. Charles and Bravo continued to bat with commonsense, Charles smashing Jadeja over long-on soon after bringing up his 50. India was desperate for a breakthrough but it was West Indies which dictated terms, with Bravo reaching his 50 and the fourth-wicket pair putting on 100.  

Against the run of play, Bravo hit a rank short Ashwin delivery to Shikhar Dhawan at mid-wicket to gift India the opening it was desperately seeking. Ishant removed Kieron Pollard, leading the team instead of the injured Dwayne Bravo, caught behind with a leg-cutter and India had its hopes up with West Indies five down and still 75 runs shy of victory. Denesh Ramdin, playing his 100th ODI, didn’t last long as Ashwin bowled him through the gate with a tossed up delivery (161/6).  

Sammy, the former skipper, smashed two sixes and a four as the required runs dwindled below 50. Sammy looked keen to finish things off in a rush before top-edging a short delivery from Ishant. Then, needing just three for his 3rd ODI century, Charles found mid-off, leaving the West Indies on tenterhooks. Sunil Narine fell trying to go over the crowding fielders, leaving Roach and Best to salvage a win that looked relatively straightforward at the 35-over mark.  

Ottis Gibson, the West Indies coach, stressed pre-match that he would like his team to be consistent and put two good matches back-to-back. The hopes of that happening took a serious hit when Dwayne Bravo and Ravi Rampaul were sidelined with injuries, and Pollard showed up at the toss which he won.  

It was a good start, a maiden over, by Roach who bowled a much fuller length than in the previous match. Roach removed Dhawan in the fifth over with a brilliant reflex catch but Best undid all the good work by trying to bowl fast and short, and in the process conceding two no-balls and a wide. Kohli and Rohit Sharma upper cut Best for sixes, and Pollard had to bring in Sammy in the 8th over to exercise some control. It bore fruit almost immediately as Kohli was caught by Gayle at first slip, playing an ambitious cover drive to a ball swinging away from him.  

India had to get in to the rebuilding mode after losing two wickets in the first Power Play. It almost shot itself in the foot when a miscommunication between Dinesh Karthik and Rohit almost led to Karthik being run out, only a despairing dive saving him. The going was slow as the two batsmen played the waiting game, rotating the strike and only scoring the occasional boundary. But not long after they brought up their 50-run partnership, Karthik was caught and bowled by the part-time off-spin of Marlon Samuels.  

Rohit continued his fine form against the West Indies as he brought his half-century with a controlled pull off Sammy, in 77 balls, but was out caught at long- off for a sedate 60 (89b) with India mired at 124 for four in 31 overs. Dhoni and Raina safely negotiated through the batting Power Play, taking the score to 160 at the end of 40 overs. Both ran hard, pushing for twos, during their 50-run partnership while Raina hit boundaries off Roach and Narine to prod India to a respectable score, on a slow pitch.  

A long delay ensued in the 43rd over as the physio worked on Dhoni’s right hamstring, and as play resumed, Raina (44 off 55 balls), perhaps due to a break in concentration, lazily wafted at one outside off from Roach. Ravindra Jadeja, joining the hobbling Dhoni, played and missed a few from the fiery Best, but hit the shot of the morning, a drive past the man at mid-off.  

Best cleaned up Dhoni who fell looking for quick runs, and the crowds chanted “Tino, Tino” to boost an already fired-up bowler. Soon, Best removed Jadeja as well, keeping India down to a none-too-intimidating total. Roach, Sammy and Best picked up two wickets each and Samuels turned in the most economical figures (1/20 in 9 overs).  

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