Determined West Indies ease to consolation win
Finally West Indies managed to put together the kind of cluster of performances they have been missing, and hence losing matches - often from positions from where they could have won. Today, though, they didn't relent despite a poor start, and registered a welcome win albeit after the series was lost. Lendl Simmons got his sixth fifty in his last eight innings, Kieron Pollard notched up his personal best against a Test-playing nation, Carlton Baugh again played the support role before taking the lead behind the stumps, Andre Russell smacked 25 off 14 before unsettling India with his bouncers, and Darren Sammy and Anthony Martin backed up expertly with their bowling, scalping six under-pressure batsmen between them.
It was never going to be an easy win. Not with Praveen Kumar and Amit Mishra in the kind of form they've been in. The two bowled six maiden overs and took five wickets between them to undo Simmons' good work. Simmons brought West Indies back from 41 for 2 through a counter-attack on the returning Ishant Sharma and on the dominant Mishra. However, he saw his partner in recovery, Darren Bravo, pick out one of three fielders on the leg-side boundary to send West Indies into a tailspin that stopped with Simmons' run-out to make it 103 for 5 in the 27th over.
This was Simmons' ninth innings out of 27 that ended between 40 and 77, a trend that flatters and then deceives. However, another flatterer-and-deceiver forgot the deceiving part today. Pollard played one of his more responsible international innings to pull West Indies out of trouble.
After an edgy start, Pollard showed much better discretion and cricketing sense. Hitting Manoj Tiwary for a straight six and a four in the 32nd over, he reached 19 off 19, and started working the singles. Baugh reciprocated just like he had done with Russell two days ago. There was a moment when Baugh should have been run out for 17, running casually with his bat in the air, but the umpire chose not to look at the replays. That was not the first mistake Norman Malcolm made, nor was it the last. His lbw call against Marlon Samuels was dodgy, as were a couple of wides, and he would go on to deny India another run-out in the last over of the innings.
Pollard, meanwhile, was making all the right decisions. The big shots and the singles were mixed well. There was also a deft late-cut, and the big hits were aimed only down the ground. Nor was there any urge to hit every delivery into the stands. He went after Mishra only when he bowled flat. He contributed 64 to the 96-run stand. Having put India under pressure, Pollard holed out in the first over of the batting Powerplay that begun in the 44th over.
That didn't stall the momentum, though, as Russell continued with his clean big striking, hitting three fours and a six to help West Indies get 57 in the Powerplay. Having reached their best score of the season, West Indies were aggressive in defence. The pitch wasn't as slow as the ones in the earlier matches, and Kemar Roach and Russell didn't bother about keeping some in the tank. They went all out against the inexperienced top order, and Sammy was canny from the other end.
India's slide began with Tiwary, who was jetlagged on debut when his stumps were clattered by Brett Lee and was now playing his comeback match as an opener, a role he is not accustomed to. It showed as he struggled against the moving ball. Nerves were on display too. He almost ran himself out and was dropped off Roach before finally edging Sammy. Parthiv Patel pulled, flicked and upper-cut well in scoring 26 of the 41 runs that came while he was at the crease. Sammy, though, got rid of him with a smart one-handed return catch to his left.
S Badrinath was then pinged by Russell's bouncers. There was an air of helplessness in the way he moved about the crease, trying to get out of the way, looking for the upper-cut. The struggle finally ended when he gloved a hook and was quick in rushing off the field.
Martin, who is a firefighter in Antigua, then came on to give his full-time job a bad name. Here were India facing the heat, and the fireman stoked the fire by scalping India's best batsman, Virat Kohli, in his first over and the innings' 21st. Baugh, who had taken an overhead catch behind his body to send Badrinath back, now finished a flashy stumping as Kohli overbalanced for a split-second. Under pressure, Suresh Raina looked for release, but slogged Martin straight to midwicket to make it 111 for 5.
Yusuf Pathan soon did something similar to Simmons, but there was still one man West Indies needed to see the back of. Rohit Sharma had denied them on two previous occasions in this series, but this time he top-edged a slog-sweep off Martin after having looked good for 39 off 47. Game over.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo