West Indies traveled to India to face the Blue Army side, where the two teams kicked off the series with 3 T20Is. The series was more closely fought than was anticipated, with India having being tipped as clear favorites before the series started. India won the series 2-1. However, the result had to wait until the final decider match at Wankhede. West Indies proved strong opponents to the Men in Blue, with the hosts having to fight out of their skins to gain victory. Let’s have a quick review of how the series progressed…
1stT20I: India beat West Indies by 6 wickets.
The first T20 took place at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Friday, 6th December. Skipper Virat Kohli yet again showed his class with superb career-best innings of 94 not out as India pulled off their highest successful run chase in T20Is, defeating the West Indians by 6 wickets.
Earlier, India won the toss put the visitors to bat first. Evin Lewis and Brandon King put up a good partnership after Lendl Simmons was caught out in the slips by Rohit Sharma in the second over itself. Lewis scored a quickfire 40 from 17 balls, amassing 4 sixes in his innings before giving his wicket away to Washington Sundar. An aggressive Hetmyer then scored 56 off 41 balls having two boundaries and four hits over the fence to stabilize the innings after being sent into bat. He first added 37 runs with Brandon King and then shared 71 runs with Kieron Pollard. The skipper, along with Jason Holder, increased the pace of the innings at the latter stages scoring 37 off 19 and 24 off 9 balls, respectively, helping West Indies reach a high score of 207-5 in 20 overs. India, with the ball and in the field, was far from impressive with the bowlers leaking too many runs and having a couple of catches dropped by Washington Sundar. Chahal was the only bright spark among all bowlers picking up two crucial wickets of Hetmyer and Pollard.
India made a slow start to the chase. However, the innings picked momentum after Rahul smashed Holder for three boundaries to give impetus to India’s quest. A poor shot selection saw Rohit give his wicket away to Khary Pierry, after which Rahul and Kohli shared a 100 run partnership for the second wicket, laying a secure platform for victory. Rahul was the aggressor initially as he continued his onslaught, scoring 62 off 40 deliveries before finding Pollard on the boundary. Kohli, however, carried on the excellent work getting his half-century in 35 deliveries and finishing with an unbeaten 94 off 50 to help India take a 1-0 lead in the 3 matches T20I series. Rishab Pant and Shreyas Iyer, however, were disappointing on the day with the bat.
2ndT20I: West Indies beat India by 8 wickets.
The second T20I was played at Greenfield Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, 8th December. Lendl Simmons’ unbeaten knock of 67* helped the West Indies chase down 171 and level the series 1-1.
West Indies won the toss and elected to bowl first, trying to capitalize on India’s weakness of defending totals. Just like the first ODI, Indian openers took a conservative approach at the start of the innings. The half-centurion in the first match, KL Rahul departed early following a mistimed shot, which was caught by Hetmyer of Pierre’s bowling. Rohit Sharma didn’t have a great outing as well with the opener bowled by Jason Holder after trying a cheeky shot over fine leg. However, the star of the show was the all-rounder, Shivam Dube. Being promoted to number 4, the youngster ran riot against the West Indian bowlers, scoring a quickfire 54 off 30 balls. The matchwinner of the previous game, Virat Kohli failed to replicate his performance as he departed courtesy, Kesrick Williams. This time the bowler opted for a quiet ‘finger on the lip’ celebration instead of the ‘Notebook’ one. The likes of Rishab Pant and Shreyas Iyer again failed to impress as India produced only 38 runs in the last 5 overs ending up with 170-7 in 20 overs. West Indies were thus able to compensate for the 15 extras that they gave away on the day with India’s poor finishing at the death. For West Indies, Williams came back well, taking 2 wickets after the humiliated by Kohli in the first game. The leg spinner, Hayden Walsh, also bagged 2 wickets. With the ball not mainly coming on to the bat, West Indies opted to bowl back of length delivery against which the Indian batsmen struggled to score.
West Indies, similar to India, conservatively started their chase. However, unlike the hosts, they didn’t lose any wicket in the opening 6 overs, which proved to be very crucial in the run chase. Lendl Simmons and Evin Lewis then changed gears which the Indian bowlers couldn’t cope with. Lewis scored a fiery 40 amassing 3 boundaries and 3 sixes before falling prey to Washington Sundar, stumped by Rishab Pant. Simmons anchored the innings from one end while the other batsmen from the opposite end acted as the aggressors. Hetmyer couldn’t capitalize on the excellent start, and he was caught on the boundary by Kohli off Ravindra Jadeja’s bowling. Nicholas Pooran came on and changed the entire complexion of the game, ripping apart all the spinners. He and Simmons took the West Indies over the line scoring 38 off 18 and 67 off 45, respectively. Indian bowling and fielding were again below par and disappointing on the day. Washington Sundar was, however, the pick of the Indian bowlers’ bunch having figures of 4-0-26-1.
3rdT20I: India beat West Indies by 67 runs.
The third and decider T20I was played at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday, 11th December. It was one sideshow by the Indian batsmen as the West Indians never looked in contention of winning it.
Just like the second ODI, West Indies won the toss and put India to bat, hoping to again take advantage of India’s struggle at defending totals. Rohit and Rahul arrived at the crease with the hope of setting a total difficult to chase, especially with the batsman-friendly nature of the pitch and the small size of the ground.
After a quiet first over, both the openers smashed 9 and 16 runs respectively of the next two overs after which, they didn’t look back. After smashing 72 runs off the power-play overs, India maintained a consistent run-rate of 11-12 RPO. Fours and sixes were flying all over Mumbai skyline as Rahul smashed a total of four sixes while Rohit had five. The typical Wankhede pitch had absolutely no help for the bowlers with a flat pitch and no lateral movement making it easier for the batsmen to slog through the line. The Indian batsman amassed 135 runs in mere 11.3 overs, after which Rohit Sharma gave away his wicket to Kesrick Williams, attempting an ugly heave across the line. The ball took the edge of the bat, and Hayden Walsh was ever ready to scalp it following yet another ‘finger on the lip’ celebration by the bowler. After Rishab Pant’s duck stuck out like a sore thumb, Virat Kohli arrived at the crease. The Indian skipper was then the difference between a good score and a match-winning score, yet again enjoying his battle with Williams. Both Rahul and Kohli smashed the West Indies’ bowlers left, right and center during their 95-run stand. Jason Holder gave away 54 runs in his four overs while Pierre and Pollard gave away 68 runs in their combined four overs. A 27-run 19th over smashed by Kohli laid the foundation for India’s victory as the Men in Blue finished with a total of 240-3 with a mammoth tally of 16 sixes in the innings. Rahul was dismissed by Cottrell in the final over for 91(56) while Kohli remained unbeaten with a score of 70* from 29 balls, smashing a total of seven sixes in his innings.
An asking rate of 12 would be Herculean for any team, and West Indies were already on the back foot following the loss of three wickets in the first six overs itself. Brandon King deputized at the top of the innings with Lendl Simmons at the expense of the injured Evin Lewis. Brandon King was dismissed in the second over by Bhuvneshwar Kumar for 5, while Mohammed Shami and Deepak Chahar dismissed Lendl Simmons and Nicholas Pooran in consecutive deliveries, which rubbed salt in West Indies’ wounds after already having to cope up with a run rate of 12 from the very start of the innings. Pollard and Hetmyer gave a slight ray of hope to the visiting fans as Hetmyer smashed a quickfire 41 off 24 balls before giving his wicket away to Kuldeep Yadav. The skipper Pollard kept smashing the Indian bowlers, however, with no support from the other end, the ‘Mumbai Indian’ was left helpless, falling prey to Bhuvi in the latter stage of the innings at long-on. The ‘local man’ Pollard scored 68 off 39 balls amassing five sixes in his innings, which was nothing more than a consolation for the visitors. West Indies ended their innings at 173-8 in 20 overs as India won the game by 67 runs and thus swept off the series 2-1. The Indian bowlers, unlike the first two matches, were impressive on the day with Chahar, Kumar, Shami, and Yadav, all getting two wickets each under their name.
What to expect ahead…..With a closely fought contest between the two teams, the hosts emerged victorious over the West Indies. However, the result going until the last decider game. While there was big-hitting witnessed by the spectators, both teams will be hoping to improve on their bowling that leaked runs for fun in the three T20Is. The Men in Blue will also hope for an improvement in the fielding department after a poor display in the field throughout the series. India winning the T20I series 2-1 will move on the ODI series with high motivation and confidence, although West Indies cannot be counted off, and the visitors will be hopeful of a resurgence. With a poor recent record against the Indians in ODIs, West Indies will try and get in good performances and reclaim bragging rights.