Snugly seated on Darren Sammy’s broad shoulders, West Indies sailed to safety and over the line in the second match of the Starplus One-Day International series at the Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy stadium here on Sunday with three balls to spare.
The towering St. Lucian’s 45-ball 63, embellished with four hits to and over the ropes, steered his side to a long sought after victory with three balls to spare. Lendl Simmons had stood by his side with an invaluable 62, especially through the troubled times.
The Caribbean chase set off to a shaky start, Johnson Charles’ hard hit held by Bhuvneshwar Kumar off his own bowling. Marlon Samuels struck two successive fours off Mohit Sharma. M.S. Dhoni surprisingly moved up close to the stumps for the next delivery, which moved in, taking an inside edge en route to the keeper’s gloves.
The left-handed duo of Kieran Powell and Darren Bravo then held court, giving the attack more than its share of tense moments. Bravo Jr. dominated the strike, picking the gaps with the poise typical of southpaws. For a squad not really famous for its endurance, the going was too good to last.
Flaws began to show, as Bravo inched closer to his half-century, surviving two spilt catches off R. Ashwin alone and in the same over. Eight boundaries graced his advance to that milestone as his partnership with Powell prospered, reaching three figures. The crafty off-spinner combined with his skipper to engineer his exit as also Powell’s, the former falling to a snick and the latter deserting the safer confines of his crease.
With the aforementioned batsmen gone and the spin duo of Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja slamming the brakes, the run-rate slackened. The frailties against spin became more pronounced, the impact felt on a climbing asking rate, with some release when the pacemen operated.
Simmons’ lofted golf shot to long-on had Yuvraj Singh juggling with the catch like a slippery soap in a shower, Suresh Raina’s assistance arriving a shade late.
Probing the corridor
Earlier, Bravo Sr. read the flip of the coin right and invited the opposition to bat. Ravi Rampaul with the new ball probed the corridor while Holder stuck to the simple geometry of a straight line from stump to stump, the two seemingly swapping approaches subsequently. Bemused by the bounce perhaps, Rohit Sharma’s edge led to his end, off a Rampaul delivery on the up, Sammy in the slips snapping up the chance.
Each of Shikhar Dhawan’s straight and off-driven boundaries leapt right out of the manual. It was ironic then that he was caught on the wrong foot by Veerasammy Permaul, while apparently caught in the slips by Dwayne Bravo. Virat Kohli was his subdued self, securing his stay with singles at first, as though biding his time to unleash himself.
Yuvraj wouldn’t exercise restraint though, lofting Sunil Narine into the stands wide of long-on, besides scything Permaul to square-leg. Shortly after Kohli posted his half-century, a relatively sedate one in recent times, Yuvraj perished, pulling his punch when aiming another heave towards mid-wicket, but holing out instead to Samuels at short mid-on.
Raina, reckless, if not restless and reprieved early, didn’t last long, his miscued hit intercepted by a back-footing captain Bravo. Kohli, meanwhile, looked destined to record his third century on the trot here, not one false move marring his endeavour. Just nine boundaries embellished his knock, testimony to a tenure built on effort.
Perched on the threshold to three figures, Rampaul snared Kohli with a steepler. The swashbuckler surfaced in the would-be centurion, who by pure instinct essayed a pull, only to be pouched by the towering Holder leaning forward low to clasp the ball. A deathly silence descended on the ground on his departure, the packed stands seemingly sharing his sorrow. It took Dhoni’s quick-fire and unchallenged 51 to bring back the cheers, the Indian captain’s huge boundary clearing blows outnumbering his hits to the fence.