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LONDON: Those expecting a touch of magic from India’s first ODI with the West Indies on English soil since 1983’s fabled final would have been disappointed.
The match panned out entirely in India’s favour, thanks to Shikhar Dhawan's second consecutive ODI century and Ravindra Jadeja's maiden five-wicket haul, and was decided with 65 balls to spare as MS Dhoni's team chased down the 234 target with ease, becoming first into the Champions Trophy semifinals and knocking out Pakistan from the tournament.
But the overwhelming verdict, by eight wickets, was also a fair indicator of how much had changed in the thirty long years since Kapil Dev and his men transformed their own and the lives of countless others on a sun-kissed evening at Lord’s.
For one, unlike in the Prudential Cup final, India started this Champions League Group ‘B’ league game runaway favourites.
For another, victory was attained in surroundings rather dissimilar from the sparse local support of thirty years ago. The full house of blue shirts that watched India torment the Windies at the Kennington Oval here have come to become one of the most visible signatures of a growing, global India.
After the Carribbeans were confined to 233/9, despite Darren Sammy's brave late hitting, openers Dhawan and Rohit Sharma (52) added 101 in about 15 overs for a solid start. Rohit and Virat Kohli (24) - playing his 100th ODI - fell to the guile of Sunil Narine, but Dhawan held one end steady.
He was dropped on 37 by Kemar Roach and then partnered Dinesh Karthik (51*) in another big alliance (109) that brought India the win. For a moment it appeared that rain would deny Dhawan of a century, but play soon resumed and the Delhi southpaw reached his landmark in 102 balls with a scintillating six cut off the bowling off Dwayne Bravo.
All through his knock, Dhawan was helped by some decidedly wayward bowling by medium pacers Sammy and Bravo and fast bowler Roach and made sure he pounced on the loose deliveries through powerful punches and cuts.
Earlier, MS Dhoni's decision to field paid off when the dangerous Chris Gayle was dismissed four sweet boundaries into his short stay. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the instrument of action here as he pegged away at just short of length and had the hulking West Indian slash to first slip, where Ashwin took a good catch standing tall.
Ashwin himself had bowled splendidly to check a rampaging Johnson Charles (60). The opener used Umesh Yadav’s pace to good effect each time he strayed on the pads and struck an inside-out six off Virat Kohli, who had been introduced as early as the 13th over.
Soon after Charles reached his fifty, Jadeja spun into action, starting with a maiden and then taking a wicket in each of his next three overs. Charles was trapped in front with a flatter delivery, Marlon Samuels (1) was done in on the decision review, while Ramnaresh Sarwan (1) patted the left-arm spinner down the leg side and into Dhoni’s gloves.
Darren Bravo had all this while was trudging painfully through, as if mired in thick bog and clingy marshland; his agony ended with an Ashwin beauty: flight and turn and a swift stumping curtailing his 83-ball 35.
The other Bravo – Dwayne – was caught at deep mid-wicket trying to pull Yadav, bringing the Windies down from a rosy 103/1 inside 20 overs to 163/6 in almost 38.
It was a precipitous fall, one that was aggravated by Pollard hitting out against Ishant Sharma and Jadeja returning to pick his fifth scalp in the form of Ravi Rampaul.
A total of 200 looked doubtful at 182/9, but Sammy struck four sixes in a murderous half-century that included a 21-run assault on Ishant in the 19th over of the innings, and united with last man Roach for crucial runs.
The Twenty20 captain added 51 in four overs for the tenth wicket, Roach’s contribution to the union being a royal, unbeaten zero, almost as bad a performance as the one he put on later with the new ball.