NORTH SOUND: Effective spin bowling and indiscreet shot selection combined to give India an ultimately comfortable 93-run victory over the West Indies in a low-scoring third fixture of a five-match One-Day International series on Friday.
Set a target of 252 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua to prevent the visitors taking an unbeatable 2-0 series lead, the hosts were on course with Jason Mohammed and Rovman Powell in full flow in a 54-run sixth-wicket partnership.
But then India’s frontline spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin swung the match decisively in their team’s favour.
From a promising position of 141 for five in the 33rd over, the Caribbean side crashed to 158 all out within the next five overs.
Yadav and Ashwin took three wickets each in engineering the capitulation that was finished off by Kedar Jadhav as he yorked last man Kesrick Williams with his first ball of the match.
Powell had looked dangerous in getting to 30 before a top-edged sweep off Yadav resulted in the pivotal dismissal via a catch at deep backward square leg.
Mohammed, who managed a top score of 40, became another victim of the left-arm wrist-spinner, trapped leg-before to effectively end the contest.
Earlier it was Jadhav who triggered a late run explosion in partnership with Mahendra Singh Dhoni as India reached 251 for four batting first on a sluggish pitch affected by prolonged, torrential rains the day before.
Dhoni top-scored with an unbeaten 78 off 79 balls and was named man of the match, but the real impetus came from Jadhav, who blazed 40 off 26 balls in an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 81 runs off just 46 deliveries.
Ajinkya Rahane held the innings together after the loss of early wickets, the opener extending his excellent run of form in the series with 72, his third consecutive score over 50.
“I thought the pitch got easier for batting as the day went along so I was really pleased with the fight we showed towards the end of our innings and then from our bowlers,” said India captain Virat Kohli.
“We may now be looking at giving some of our other players in the squad an opportunity to show how they can perform in these conditions.”
– ‘Satisfying’ for Dhoni –
Comprehensively beaten by 105 runs in the second match in Trinidad five days earlier following a rain-ruined no-result to start the series, West Indies took early advantage of the pitch conditions.
Miguel Cummins removed Shikhar Dhawan in just the third over while Jason Holder justified his decision to bat first on winning the toss when he claimed the prized scalp of Kohli, who was brilliantly caught by debutant Kyle Hope at gully.
Rahane found a reliable partner in Yuvraj Singh, the pair putting on 66 for the third wicket before Devendra Bishoo trapped Yuvraj lbw for 39.
Dhoni then joined Rahane in another important stand of 70, although both found the spinners especially hard to get away on the turgid surface.
“Our batting has been performing so well for the last year and a half that I haven’t had too many opportunities to spend time in the middle in ODIs so this was very satisfying,” said Dhoni.
“I am continuing to enjoy my cricket and it’s good to see the hunger and desire from all the players.”
It was the arrival of Jadhav at the crease in the 43rd over, when Rahane became Cummins’ second wicket of the innings, that shot the score upward.
“We started well with the ball but let things get away from us towards the end of their innings,” said Holder. “Yet again the batting didn’t deliver and that continues to be a problem.”
West Indies need to win the fourth match at the same venue on Sunday to have a chance of squaring the series going into the final match on July 6 in Kingston.