The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
India have been masterful while chasing in ODIs this year, and against a moderate total and a mediocre West Indies attack, they ambled to victory in the series-deciding third ODI in Kanpur. Shikhar Dhawan hit his fifth ODI hundred of his magical year and the struggling Yuvraj Singh hit his first ODI half-century in 11 innings as India cruised to their sixth successive one-day series win of the year.
With a 9am start on a hazy winter morning, the talk at the toss was about how the first hour would be a challenge for the batsmen. West Indies negotiated that phase well losing only one wicket, and half-centuries from Kieran Powell and Marlon Samuels took them to a strong 164 for 2 when the batting Powerplay was taken. Perfectly placed then for the power-hitters to come; they nearly squandered that advantage by losing three quick wickets, but Darren Sammy and Darren Bravo provided the late flourish to lift them to 263.
That proved too little, especially as only Ravi Rampaul and Sunil Narine posed any threat with the ball. Jason Holder had a disappointing day, with Dhawan feasting on the poor lines to take five fours in his first two overs to propel India along early. Dwayne Bravo and Sammy were tame, and midway through the chase – when Dhawan and Yuvraj were killing off the chase – West Indies had turned to the innocuous duo of Veerasammy Permaul and Lendl Simmons.
There was briefly some hope for West Indies early on, when Rampaul dismissed two of India’s red-hot top three early. He couldn’t get the wicket of Dhawan, though, and Dhawan scored big. As usual, the innings was studded with breathtaking cuts and drives through the off, and without really seeming to make the effort, he had 20 fours to his name was scoring at over a run a ball.
While it was Dhawan’s innings that made the game safe, Yuvraj’s will gladden Indian fans. A destructive batsman with a penchant for the big stage, Yuvraj hasn’t been among the runs in recent months, even during the Australia series which was a bowlers’ bloodbath. Australia turned to Mitchell Johnson to dismiss him early several times, and West Indies hoped Narine would have a similar impact. Yuvraj wasn’t comfortable against Narine today either, misreading him several times, but he managed to ride out that difficult phase and cashed in against the lesser threats in the attack.
Even though Dhawan and Yuvraj were dismissed with India just under 50 away from the target, it only afforded the chance for India’s other out-of-form batsman, Suresh Raina, to play a pressure-free cameo on his birthday, with the result never in doubt.
It was far easier batting in the evening than in the first hour. India’s new-ball bowlers posed plenty of questions for West Indies’ openers, who were regularly beaten by the movement. Even as late as the 12th over, India had three slips in place.
Powell had grabbed the chance offered by Chris Gayle’s absence with a half-century in Visakhapatnam, and built on that with another solid score. He was a bit loose outside off early on but settled in as the innings progressed, showing off his driving skills, with a square drive off Mohit Sharma in the sixth over a highlight. He had reached 70 by the 30th over, but miscued a sweep off R Ashwin – the fifth time in a row that the opener has gone past 40 without reaching triple figures.
His 117-run partnership with Samuels had set West Indies up for a strong total. Samuels was nervy early on, extremely reluctant to get on the front foot against the fast bowlers, and played and missed often. After his initial struggles, he was more at ease against the spinners, stepping out to launch Ashwin onto the temporary roof in the stands beyond long-on. He was reprieved on 60 when Virat Kohli put down a chance at first slip, but was bowled soon after by Ashwin.
That was in the first over of the batting Powerplay, and with Simmons and Dwayne Bravo failing, West Indies had suddenly slipped to 196 for 5. However, Darren Bravo made his third consecutive half-century and Darren Sammy’s all-power game worked again this time as they threw the bat around to put on 67 in little over eight overs. It proved to be too little against India’s formidable batting though.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo