India needed 14 runs off 7 deliveries, with MS Dhoni on strike. On any other day, Dhoni would have sealed the game for his side with some attacking strokes but it didn’t happen on this occasion. Dhoni was dismissed off the ultimate delivery of the 49th over and almost ended India’s hope of chasing the target down. Dhoni is rightly known as one of the best finishers in world cricket. He likes to take the game till the end and backs himself to finish the job. He was on the brink of doing so once again but Kesrick Williams scalped his wicket at a very crucial juncture and helped his side in registering an emphatic win.
West Indies stunned many when their bowlers successfully defended 189 against the star-studded Indian batting line-up. This win by West Indies has now infused momentum and energy in the series, which was turning out to be a dull one. With a match to go, India lead the series by 2-1 and West Indies still stand a chance to square it if they win the final game.
West Indies hold their nerves and did a fantastic job with the ball to defend such a modest total on a pitch, where batting looked difficult. At first, Indian bowlers did well in restricting West Indies to 189 for 9 in 50 overs. Umesh Yadav and Hardik Pandya were outstanding with the ball while Kuldeep Yadav continued his good run and bagged two wickets.
When Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane walked out to bat, the asking run-rate was under 4. Well, how many times a team chasing such a low total end up on the losing side? It’s an oddity. West Indies needed something outstanding to defend such a low total and this was also a do-or-die game for them. West Indies skipper Jason Holder led the side from the front with five wickets in his basket. It was a collective effort by the bowlers who maintained a tight line and bowled to a plan.
Wickets with the new ball are the key while defending such small totals and West Indies ensure they got some. Alzarri Joseph got rid of Shikhar Dhawan and few overs later Holder bagged the big wicket of Virat Kohli. The Indian skipper is known as the master of chases in contemporary cricket; he likes pressure and boasts of a fantastic record when it comes to gunning down targets. In the previous matches, West Indies did attack Kohli with a lot of short pitched deliveries. And, on this occasion, Holder once again got the better of him with a short one.
Ajinkya Rahane was dropped early on in the innings and he made good use of it with another half-century to his name. Batting was not easy, the pitch had a lot of assistance for the bowlers and West Indies bowlers were exploiting it well. For West Indies to win this game, they needed to scalp ten wickets as one could have easily anticipated India to chase down the total if they batted for 50 overs. But West Indies bowlers did well in squeezing the runs and producing a lot of dot deliveries in order to built pressure.
Ajinkya Rahane played 91 deliveries for his 60 while Kedar Jadhav suffered a rare failure with the bat. India were delicately placed at 116 for 5 inside 36 overs, when the hard-hitting Hardik Pandya took guard. India needed 63 off 50 deliveries, which looked quite achievable as per the current standards. But, this was a different pitch altogether. Dhoni failed to rotate the strike and endured too many dot deliveries. It was almost like 20 fielders were on the field whenever Dhoni was trying to find a gap.
Jason Holder threw the ball to Roston Chase in the 44th over, who hasn’t bowled a single over in the series so far. Chase struggled to get his line and length right and conceded 16 runs, further bringing the equation down to 31 off 30 deliveries. It looked like the game was done and dusted from West Indies point of view but there was a turnaround about to happen.
Jason Holder dismissed Hardik Pandya in the 46th over and the tail was now open. Ravindra Jadeja got a good start but floundered while playing a big shot. There was still no need to panic as India needed just 17 off 15 deliveries with MS Dhoni at the crease. But Kuldeep Yadav endured two dot deliveries and the equation was now 16 off last two overs.
One could have expected Kuldeep Yadav to struggle as the frontline batsmen found it difficult to get going. MS Dhoni scored the slowest fifty of his ODI career, which came in 108 deliveries. The first five balls of the penultimate over saw just two runs being scored and Dhoni was on strike for the final delivery.
A single would have brought Dhoni on strike for the final over with 13 runs needed but the situation demanded a big shot off the final ball. Dhoni went for a big hit but failed to get the desired elevation as he was caught by Joseph at long-on. Dhoni backed himself and decided to take the game till the end but the move backfired on this occasion. His dismissal was indubitably the turning point of the game as Dhoni was well capable of garnering the required runs within seven deliveries.
West Indies bowlers got rid of the tail and won the game by 11 runs. Prior to the start of India’s innings, not many would have expected West Indies to pull this off. Chipping wickets at regular intervals and building pressure with some tight line and length turned out to be the key for West Indies’ success. Did India allow West Indies to get back into the game by being too defensive? Would the chase have gone down to the final over had MS Dhoni attacked a bit earlier? Well, by looking at the slowness of the pitch it would be difficult to comment on these. But West Indies bowlers did exploit the surface to the fullest in the second half of the game.