Followers of modern West Indies cricket won't be surprised. It is painfully familiar. They put behind them yet another disappointment, make a good start, capitalise on it in the middle part, but stumble at the last mile. It happened this Saturday, when they were all over India with the ball, but lost all discipline and control in the last five overs. Today with the bat, they got off to a solid start, ensured minimal damage to the spin threat of Amit Mishra, accumulated steadily in the first 40 overs to reach 192 for 3, and then lost four wickets for five runs, reaching only 240 in the end.
Led by a 120-run second-wicket stand between Virat Kohli and Parthiv Patel, India reached home without a bother, except for the rain break at the end of the 22nd over, which left them a slightly stiffer revised target of 83 more off 90 balls. Kolhi and Parthiv came back, and for about five minutes kept taking undue risks. Kohli and Suresh Raina, though, unfurled a few big ones to finish the game off in a hurry. In scoring his 19th score of fifty or more, Kohli also became the third-fastest Indian to 2000 ODI runs.
West Indies had little to celebrate in the end, but it was not always like that. Not when Lendl Simmons, Kirk Edwards, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels had given them a good start. Yet all they could look at was dispiriting. Two well-set batsmen were stumped to a part-time bowler. Another half-centurion got out to a full toss. Kieron Pollard joined Dwayne Bravo in the 42nd over, and immediately they took the batting Powerplay. Pollard went back for a duck. Bravo was soon caught at long-off, and when the catch was completed he had not even left his crease, an image that summed up the sudden brain freeze. That they still managed to reach their highest score of a home season that is seven-matches old, beating 221, speaks volumes of how ordinary the season has been.
If all this was enough to drive the coach and the captain up the wall, their strategy in the field too left a lot to be desired. Their two legspinners, who had kept them alive in the previous game with a combined effort of 20-1-76-3, were not used until the 17th over on a turning pitch. By then, though, the game had slipped out of their grip.
That legspin was the way to go on this pitch was amply demonstrated by Mishra. His dangerous first spell of six overs might have yielded only one wicket, but he was only too happy to provide rope to the batsmen intent on suicide towards the end, finishing with another maiden and three more wickets.
Simmons and Sarwan had worked hard in denying Mishra in that first spell, following up on a partnership of 57 for the first wicket. Even then, with a newish ball, Mishra was beating outside edges with balls pitched outside leg. The googly was a mystery for the majority of that spell.
Sarwan, replacing Darren Bravo at No. 3, made a slow start, but was offset by Simmons, who had begun to accelerate. Simmons reached his fifty in the 25th over before going on to demonstrate why he has seven of those and no century. Before charging at Yusuf, he posted his intents on Twitter, and was beaten by the short, big offbreak to be stumped down the leg side.
Samuels was more subtle and powerful in his attack. He played nice-looking shots in his 32-ball 36, working well with the slow but stable Sarwan, but then he went to hit Yusuf for a second six in the 36th over. Yusuf responded well, bowling even slower, tossing it even higher, and pushing it wider outside off. Stumped.
Until then Sarwan had been decent in knocking the odd single around, but a strike-rate in 60s would need some correcting towards the end. In the 41st over, though, he summed up what has been missing in his recent efforts. Four out of the first five balls from Munaf, he played with hard hands and straight to the fielder at point. Finally when a full toss arrived, he lofted it to deep midwicket. Thus began the collapse.
Sammy resurrected the situation somewhat with a 19-ball 22, but his choice to open the bowling didn't do his side any favours. India's batsmen liked the pace on the ball. Kohli, who played a rare loose shot in the previous match, was intent on making up for the blip. The first signs of intent came from Parthiv, who pulled Sammy for a six in the sixth over. Kohli followed up with two pulled boundaries off Ravi Rampaul.
There was little that the medium-pacers could do to trouble the batsmen, but Bishoo highlighted the hole in their strategy by producing an edge with the third ball he bowled. The sharp chance from Kohli was dropped by Sammy at slip. Kolhi was 38 at the time. By the time Kohli offered his next chance, India were nearly home and dry at 173 for 3 in 31 overs.