It was a one-day match at Kochi’s Nehru Stadium. But as the West Indies batted, the pitch behaved like a Day 5 Test match track. Several deliveries deviated viciously off its many cracks. Some zipped along the ankles, some came head-high. Others spun at right-angles. In March, Virender Sehwag played here and said it wasn’t suited to T20 cricket. As the first innings progressed, the curator’s promise of a high-scoring game seemed empty. But all that changed once Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli came together with a match-winning partnership.
The game began with drama. Second ball after the West Indies chose to bat, Chris Gayle ran himself. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar’s direct hit caught Gayle a couple of feet short. Gayle stumbled over his bat, fell awkwardly and was in so much pain, he had to be stretchered off the ground. Later, his injury was reported as a torn hamstring. He would take no further part in the series.
WEST INDIES COLLAPSE
First through Johnson Charles and Marlon Samuels, and then through Lendl Simmons and Darren Bravo, the West Indian innings sputtered ahead. When their stroke-play was pure and correct, runs flowed freely. Samuels played the stroke of the day—carving Jaydev Unadkat over extra-cover for six. But every now and then, a delivery would misbehave and create doubts in the batsmen’s minds.
MS Dhoni took the pacers off, using 32 overs of spin. bowling Charles was caught-and-bowled brilliantly by Ravindra Jadeja. Samuels was done in by a shooter from Suresh Raina. Both those bowlers took three wickets each, backed up by Ravichandran Ashwin who took two, occasionally generating demonic amounts of turn.
When the pitch didn’t misbehave, the batsmen did. Captain Dwayne Bravo was stumped trying to hit Jadeja to the general direction of Kottayam. The man Bravo replaced as captain—Darren Sammy—holed out to long-on when the need of the hour was to hang around and exploit the four-fielder rule. They had looked good for 250, but folded for 211.
ROHIT, VIRAT POWER INDIA HOME
The 133-run partnership between Virat and Rohit was all about control. Shikhar Dhawan had been dismissed by a ball that climbed rapidly on him. Surviving these occasional brutes was key. Virat and Rohit both played and missed a bit against the new ball. But all loose balls were put away stylishly. There were whips to square leg, punches through the cover and pushes down the ground.
Rohit, on track to make his fourth hundred in as many innings for India, fell to a pull shot. Kohli carried on, outweighing Yuvraj Singh 30 runs to 9 in a partnership of 42. Kohli then threw it away trying to hit Jason Holder down the ground for six.
Before he got out, Kohli completed 5,000 ODIs runs in his 114th innings, a record he now shares with Vivian Richards. The two are separated by eras and conditions, but united by their love for big scores.
The second ODI in Vizag is under threat from Cyclone Helen, and this may have been the game that weighs heavily in the outcome of the series.