Why Pollard owes Kohli
While match-defining performances come easily to Kieron Pollard in his role as Twenty20 freelancer, there have been very few of them in his four-and-a-half years with West Indies. On Sunday, he was threatening to turn in one of them by rescuing West Indies from a hopeless 78 for 5. Even as he kept losing partners, he swung straight sixes at will. Virat Kohli, one of the safest fielders in the India team, was placed at long-on to latch on to anything Pollard miscued. On 99, Pollard duly chipped the ball to Kohli, who barely had to move as the ball came to him head-high. Amazingly, it burst through Kohli's hands and trickled to the boundary to give Pollard his first international century.
The start - 1
India's opening stand in the previous match was worth 176, at 7.82 an over. This time it lasted only two balls as Ajinkya Rahane botched his only batting opportunity of the series. Kemar Roach got a short-of-length delivery to stay low and Rahane was plumb lbw for a golden duck. Another man who had failed to grab his chances this series then walked in. Parthiv Patel had no half-centuries in three previous chances in the top order, but this was to be his worst game yet as he inside-edged Roach onto the stumps for a first-baller. Roach couldn't complete the hat-trick but had already sent the signal that this wasn't going to be another one-dayer in which the bowlers could be toyed with.
The start - 2
It had been nearly three years since Irfan Pathan had played an ODI for India, but in most matches since ESPNcricinfo readers have sent in mails and comments questioning his exclusion. It took him all of one delivery to make an impact on his return: he got the ball to swing in sharply, beating the inside-edge of Lendl Simmons to strike the pad for an lbw. Exactly the sort of swing-bowling that earned him a legion of supporters soon after he burst on to the international scene as a teenager.
Irfan may have begun well with the ball, but his international comeback with the bat is not something he'll look back on fondly . Facing the befuddling variations of Sunil Narine for the first time, Irfan could barely get bat on ball as India hunted quick runs in the death. He was nearly stumped off the first delivery from Narine after failing to pick the legcutter. He defended one delivery back to Narine and was beaten three other times as he played out a maiden. It was the first of the innings, in the 49th over.
Pollard is usually seen as a power-hitting slogger who doesn't have the technique to thrive in the 50-over format. He showed he could at the MA Chidambaram Stadium with a series of calculated straight hits; even mere pushes were clearing the ropes. In case there were any doubts about where his power-hitting had gone, he showcased it in the 16th over. Ravindra Jadeja sent in a length delivery which Pollard dispatched with an almighty swing way over long-on, all the way to the roof of the stadium. The only person more upset than Jadeja was the member of the groundstaff who was tasked with retrieving the ball.
The fielding side is rarely shy of belting out full-throated appeals even for half-chances. In the sixth over, Abhimanyu Mithun got one delivery to swerve dangerously close to Marlon Samuels' bat and barely appealed, though Parthiv Patel put in a loud shout for caught-behind. Mithun seemed fairly sure that it wasn't going to be given out, and was set to turn back to bowl his next delivery when he caught sight of the umpire Sudhir Asnani raising the finger. Mithun wore a sheepish grin as his team-mates rushed in to celebrate the wicket, a stark contrast to the shocked expression on Samuels' face.
With a blaze of big-hitting, Pollard and Andre Russell were powering West Indies' chase. Both are supremely quick between the wickets as well. Gautam Gambhir, on the other hand, isn't among India's most fleet-footed or sure-fingered of fielders. A case in point is the third ODI in Ahmedabad, where besides several misfields he put down an absolute sitter from Pollard at short midwicket. That might have prompted Pollard to go for a tight single after hitting the ball towards Gambhir at short third man. Russell raced across but Gambhir's slide-rule throw caught him well short and snapped the momentum West Indies had built.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo