It’s no surprise that India’s recent excellence in ODI cricket has coincided with Shikhar Dhawan’s emergence in international cricket. The Delhi batsman has proved to be a calming influence at the top; not by reactively preventing any damage, but through exuberance that leaves the opposition stupefied.
In less than six months, Dhawan has achieved a 50-plus score ten times in this format. India has won all those matches. The latest chapter in the Dhawan success story was written at the Green Park on Wednesday.
India won the ODI series 2-1 with a five-wicket win over West Indies, chasing 263 with an ease made familiar by the side’s recent conquests.
Dhawan’s beginnings were comfortable, thanks to the wide and full delicacies served by the opposition bowlers. Three fours were creamed in the second over, bowled by Jason Holder, to set a pace the West Indies was unable to restrain.
Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, though, were dismissed within the opening 10 overs by Ravi Rampaul.
In the fifth over, the medium-pacer got Dhawan’s opening partner to poke at a delivery outside the off stump, the ball gobbled by Dwayne Bravo at first slip.
Four overs later, Kohli decided to leave the ball belatedly but it managed to peck his bat on the way to the ‘keeper.
Yet, the underlying tension slowly dissipated due to Yuvraj Singh and Dhawan’s confidence. For all his lack of runs, the former laid a stable edifice for the latter to explode. Yuvraj reached his fifty in the same over when Dhawan got to his hundred. Yuvraj’s half-century came off 68 balls; Dhawan took five more deliveries to achieve his century.
Though the duo failed to last until India crossed the victory line, a smooth final sprint was orchestrated by M.S. Dhoni and Suresh Raina.
Earlier, the Indian skipper chose to bowl on a cold morning, hoping to exploit the moisture on the track.
Preservation of wickets
The West Indies openers Johnson Charles and Kieran Powell chose preservation of wickets over an aggressive approach in the beginning.
The former, though, failed, to match his partner as Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s ball cut through his defence to clatter the stumps. The ball swung inwards sharply, greater than any delivery before.
The prudence, though, served West Indies well largely. Four runs each came from the first eight overs, but the run-rate acquired a higher rate afterwards. More importantly, no wicket fell again until the 30th over.
Perhaps, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma missed a trick or two by not bowling fuller to Powell and Marlon Samuels. Dhoni started with three slips and placed at least one fielder beside him in the opening hour, but the batsmen were not invited to drive the ball.
In fact, when the ball was pitched up, it was either too wide or on leg stump, allowing the batsmen to score more than a run. One Powell drive past point, with one knee resting on the ground, off Mohit Sharma’s overpitched delivery was lustrous.
Samuels was troubled by Bhuvneshwar’s inswingers off a good length initially but the introduction of R. Ashwin kindled his aggressive streak. The offie was greeted with a six over long-on and a four through cover in the 19th over.
Powell reached his second consecutive half-century in 66 balls while, four overs later, Samuels achieved that milestone but took seven deliveries more.
However, in the following over, Powell broke the partnership off an innocuous delivery. Ashwin pitched it outside leg, only for the left-hander to top-edge the ball to Dhawan at short fine leg while attempting a sweep.
Though Powell’s dismissal didn’t unsettle the innings, the introduction of a Power Play did. Samuels and Lendl Simmons departed during the five-over period, with only 26 runs added.
Dwayne Bravo got excited and lofted the ball to Ashwin at sweeper cover, leaving his brother Darren Bravo and Darren Sammy to set a competitive total.
The duo ignored their sluggish beginnings to grab 41 runs off the last three overs, helped in no small measure by the India pace-bowling trio’s insistence to bowl full. Still, 264 was hardly the most imposing target and Dhawan ensured it wasn’t even a challenging one.