Rohit helps India prevail in battle of attrition
In a contest of ordinary batting line-ups, India had the extra bit of quality to successfully chase an under-par West Indies total. West Indies seemed to lack enterprise and skill to handle India's bowling, but their bowlers and fielders were spirited in the defence, dragging India down. The top order faltered after a quick start, but Rohit Sharma and captain Suresh Raina steadied India from 104 for 4.
It was a slow and low track all right, fast becoming the norm in the West Indies now, but wasn't treacherous enough to justify either West Indies' total or the struggle India went through before getting there. The only batsmen that seemed at ease were Marlon Samuels, Raina and eventually Rohit. Samuels' half-century injected some life in West Indies' limp innings after early wickets and an extra-cautious Ramnaresh Sarwan had left them crawling to 74 for 3 in 25 overs.
Raina did much the same for India with a busy effort, but it was Rohit who was the most interesting study. There were two Rohits on display. The first came out, saw Devendra Bishoo spin one across him, and started slogging at everything. That Rohit refused to work hard, and looked to slog his way out. That Rohit batted alongside Shikhar Dhawan, who scored his maiden half-century in unconvincing manner and looked liked he could get out any moment.
West Indies' brightest phase came when legspinners Bishoo and Anthony Martin kept a tight leash on the scoring, with Darren Sammy and the alert fielders providing the support cast. For 13.2 overs India didn't get a single boundary. The edginess was apparent. S Badrinath played 11 straight dots before edging Bishoo to make it 61 for 3. Rohit's ways rubbed off on Dhawan, who started trying to hit every ball for four, finding either an edge or a fielder. His wicket, through a slog sweep that gave Martin his maiden wicket, was a freight train coming.
Rohit, though, was over the self-destructive period by then. And also a critical moment in the 24th over when a close lbw shout was ruled in his favour. He played Bishoo for the turn, and the straighter one kissed his back pad before hitting the bat. And it was right in front. The umpire couldn't really be faulted for not being completely sure it had hit the pad first, but West Indies could claim that the DRS would have got them their man.
Those early hiccups negotiated, the other Rohit was the one batting in a sweat-drenched shirt, running hard, looking to convert ones into twos, scoring his first 30 runs without a boundary. Raina came in and nudged a couple of boundaries to calm things further. Rohit's first boundary was a treat: an inside-out chip for six off Sammy. He added 80 in 14.3 overs with Raina without looking hurried at all. Raina perished looking to finish the game in the batting Powerplay, and a physically struggling Rohit would have had to dig much deeper had Martin held on to a simple return catch from Yusuf Pathan at 189 for 5.
Another half-centurion in the match, Sarwan, got off to a much better start than Rohit did, but played himself into a shell, during the other critical passage of play in the game. West Indies had got off to a start similar to India's, losing two wickets after a quickish opening, but Sarwan's 63-ball stand with Kirk Edwards featured 38 dots. Praveen Kumar, Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh - who went for 108 in their 30 overs for five wickets - bowled well, but not least because the batsmen allowed them to. Neither of the two batsmen looked to drop and run a quick single, nor was a single fielder put under pressure. Harbhajan reaped the rewards as Edwards top-edged a straighter one.
Samuels, though, brought in the urgency, attacking Yusuf, becoming the first batsman to have a strike-rate of over 50. After a spell of 12 overs for 56, at 130 for 3, they asked for the Batting Powerplay. Forty-three came off the five-over block, but West Indies also lost Sarwan to a tickle down the leg side. The real blows came after the Powerplay as Raina snuck a short delivery through Samuels' legs, and Harbhajan did Bravo in with a doosra that dipped and kicked. The rest could add only 23 to the 191 for 6 in the 45th over, providing India with a seemingly easy chase. As it turned out, it took a dehydrated, cramping-up, and a slightly fortunate Rohit to pull it off.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo