India win tour opener despite early wobble
During a five-over spell of poor discipline, West Indies lost the tour opener, the only Twenty20 international in Port of Spain. Led by Darren Sammy's four-wicket haul, the hosts bossed India for 15 overs on a spinners' paradise, but then they dropped a catch, took a wicket off a no-ball, bowled a lot of length, and the 72 runs they conceded in the last five overs proved to be the deciding factor. With two specialists spinners handcuffing the chase, the West Indies batsmen never really threatened India's total, although they lost only two wickets in the first 15.3 overs.
West Indies had been much more clinical for the majority of the first half of the game. Two reprieved men, though, - Rohit Sharma, dropped on 8, and S Badrinath, caught off a no-ball on 25 and not given stumped on 36 - played crucial parts in those five overs that went for 72. India's first 72 had taken more than 12 overs on a Queen's Park Oval pitch that had been under covers for most of the week because of rain. It misbehaved profusely: a few deliveries took the top surface with them, and the spinners managed disconcerting turn even without giving the ball much air. To make it worse for India, it drizzled for about the first 12 overs of the innings, but not hard enough to send the players off. There were two massive boundary-less periods: 19 balls at the start and 32 in the middle.
The way the ball turned justified India's call to play two specialist spinners, in Harbhajan Singh and R Aswhin, but West Indies inflicted damage even before spin was introduced. Their captain Sammy exploited the conditions with slower offcutters, slicing a chunk out of India's batting during an unbroken four-over spell, even as Chris Gayle watched from the stands, dressed in flashy party wear and a cap that said "captain".
Sammy's first wicket, though, was with a bouncer that cramped the debutant Shikhar Dhawan, and kissed the side of the bat on its way through to Andre Fletcher. Virat Kohli got a massive leading edge to a slower delivery, Parthiv Patel lobbed another offcutter to point, and Suresh Raina heaved to mid-on. Following that, Nurse and Bishoo stifled India, but the turning points came in the 14th and 16th overs.
First Nurse passed a maiden international wicket by failing to hold onto a simple return catch from Rohit. Then Rampaul seemed to have got rid of Badrinath, but the replays showed his front foot had landed on the line. The resultant free hit went for four, which should actually have been six because Nurse caught the ball on the full and dived on the boundary rope, and that opened the floodgates.
Rohit hit Rampaul for a six down the ground, and Badrinath hit two fours off Bishoo's next over. In between those boundaries, Badrinath was stumped, but the umpire Peter Nero refused to even refer it to the third umpire. The 18th over, bowled by Christopher Barnwell, was a disaster for West Indies even though he managed Rohit's wicket. He began with five wides and was hit for two sixes, one each by Rohit and Yusuf Pathan, in a 20-run over. Bishoo did some damage control in the 19th, but Rampaul came back to bowl length in the 20th, and was smacked for a six and a four by Harbhajan Singh.
Expectedly India wasted little time in unleashing spin after Praveen Kumar opened the defence with a maiden over. Ashwin and Harbhajan proved to be too good at the start, and Ashwin - albeit fortuitously - removed Lendl Simmons early. The man to blame was Nero again, who ruled Simmons caught behind off the thigh, and also off the wicketkeeper's helmet.
What followed involved no luck. Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo managed to not lose their wickets but struggled to stay in touch with the asking-rate. As the ball turned and bounced, surely they would have wondered why their home pitches should test their weakness, and not the opposition's. That didn't explain lack of urgency in running between the wickets. No Indian fielder felt under pressure to charge at the ball as West Indies were not looking to convert ones into twos.
The asking-rate touched 17 for the last five overs, and the first big risks taken by the pair resulted in wickets to Harbhajan. Barnwell displayed his big-hitting capabilities in a 16-ball 34, but he was left with too much to do to prevent West Indies' first T20 defeat to India.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo